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It’s not what Elizabethtown resident Aaron Rucker does so much as what he doesn’t do that put him on the trail to become president of Greenspace Inc.
“My dad says I should learn to say ‘no,’” Rucker said.
Rucker didn’t say “no” some seven or eight years ago when it came to getting involved with the nonprofit organization. Greenspace preserves area riparian streams and open spaces for their recreational, historical, educational, ecological and aesthetic values and provides trails for passive recreational use, public health and enjoyment.
Mountain biking connected Rucker to this volunteer role.
“I started out riding these trails, which is how I got involved,” he said.
When Rucker began working with Greenspace, he was on the trail committee, one of organization’s four focuses. The other committees are land acquisition, publicity and finance.
The organization has a only one paid position. The rest, like Rucker, are volunteers.
Formed in 1974, Greenspace has worked to develop the Greenbelt Plan, a project to create alinear park system to follow along the natural streams through and around the city. While the organization has succeeded in creating and maintaining numerous trails known as the Elizabethtown Greenbelt, continuing the effort requires the community to be supportive.
“They have to be, for it to work,” Rucker said.
Trying to get everybody on board, he said, was one of the biggest obstacles for Greenspace.
Misconceptions exist, too, Rucker said.
“A lot of people think we’re an entity of the city,” Rucker said. “We’re not.”
Also, Greenspace is not Greenpeace, he said.
Another challenge is cultivating volunteers.
Janet Gebler, Greenspace board member and supporter of more than 20 years, noted the organization’s board members have “full-time, responsible and demanding lives and jobs.” That means a lot of important issues must be addressed in a timely and efficient manner.
“This is where president Aaron Rucker shows his strength,” Gelber said. “He usually uses Eisenhower’s objective negotiating techniques in letting all sides of an issue be heard before stating his own position.”
Rucker, she said, has displayed strong support when necessary and supported the creation of a website, a presence in social media and “other electronic enhancements to the organization.” Also, Rucker favored and negotiated bicycle use of the trails, Gebler said.
This year Greenspace reaches its 40th anniversary and plans are underway for a celebration Oct. 12.
But helping with Greenspace plans and missions are only part of what keeps Rucker busy.
In addition to his work with Greenspace, Rucker is an active member of the Elizabethtown Lions Club, for which he served as president about eight years ago. At the time, he said, he was the chapter’s youngest president.
He is second vice president, which means, he said, that he’s “back in line to take the helm.”
“I may ask to be reshuffled though, until my kids are out of school,” Rucker said. “Pretty much every evening and weekend is tied to soccer and other activities.”
Like other organizations, including Greenspace, attracting a new generation of volunteers is important, he said.
“At 42, I’m still one of the youngest members,” Rucker said.
The need for new members is underscored by the Lions’ upcoming annual chicken barbecue slated for Aug. 16.
“I’m usually responsible for the grilling and rounding up of cooks, and it’s a tough job, as we are out there from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” Rucker said. “Most of our current membership can’t do that anymore. I’ll probably have to round up some ‘non-Lion’ friends again this year.”
Rucker called the Lions Club a great opportunity for the younger workforce, not only as an opportunity to give back to the community but as a great way to meet people and make new contacts.
“I’ve made more friends than I can count through Lions,” he said.
Rucker has a friend at Greenspace, too.
“Greenspace is lucky to have Aaron continuing in a long line of good presidential leadership,” Gebler said. “His youth and strength and technical skills are pushing Greenspace to continue its mission: the wise use and preservation of E’town’s outdoor nature trails.”
Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A SHORT HIKE WITH AARON RUCKER
City of birth: Baton Rouge, La.
Favorite music: Eclectic, from new age to heavy metal but not country
Favorite TV shows: “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Amazing Race” and Travel Channel programming
Favorite movies: “Forrest Gump” and science fiction
Favorite authors/books: J.R.R. Tolkien and “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” by Bill Bryson
Favorite Greenbelt trail to use: Banam Shaw Trail