Carter Wright has turned his love of photography and the outdoors into a way to help other people appreciate the same through his volunteer work with the Forest Preserve District.
Wright is semi-retired, and now that his daughters are grown and he's working fewer hours he found himself wanting to do something fun with his spare time. An amateur photographer, he enjoys spending time outdoors observing and photographing the wildlife in the area, so volunteering for the Forest Preserve District seemed like a natural extension of his interests.
About a year ago he started volunteering as an interpreter at some of the bird viewing events at Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve in Plainfield. As Wright looked through the District's available volunteer opportunities, he said he was initially intimidated by the term "interpreter" because he wasn't sure exactly what it entailed or that he was qualified for such a job. After diving in, though, he has come to enjoy his time at Lake Renwick, talking with visitors, pointing out the many bird species that can be seen at the rookery and answering any questions.
"It's always interesting to see why people are there and what they are interested in seeing," he said of the Lake Renwick Bird Viewing programs.
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Even before Wright signed on as volunteer for the District he was a frequent visitor to the preserves, enjoying hikes and bike rides with his wife. The couple lives near Old Plank Road Trail and often rides there observing wildlife, but they also like branching out and seeing other spots throughout the county. A favorite for Wright is McKinley Woods in Channahon because of the abundant wildlife.
"The Forest Preserve District is quite impressive with all the forest preserves," he said. "We've been trying to hit all of them."
He and his wife also frequently attend programs offered by the District, including many of the bird hikes, which they both enjoy. He's amazed by all the knowledge the interpretive naturalists who lead the programs have to pass along to visitors, knowledge that has also helped him in his volunteer role.
Wright doesn't limit his volunteer work to the District. He also volunteers as a tutor at Joliet Junior College, where he works part time, teaching computer software courses. He and his wife also travel often.
His interest in photography — "I can bore people to death sharing my photos with them," he joked — means his eyes are always peeled while out walking or riding, and he has taken many photos of what he has come across while out in the preserves. He is a regular contributor to the District's Will County Wildlife Facebook page, where people can share photos of wildlife they have taken throughout the county.
Photography has also proven to be a good way to connect with visitors while he's volunteering at Lake Renwick, Wright explained. Many people come with their camera equipment in tow, wanting to photograph the birds nesting on the island, which he affectionately refers to as "the pirate ship" because of its towering wooden structures.
Their interest in photography is a good way to make a connection with visitors and start a conversation. Of course, not everyone comes to Lake Renwick intent on snapping photos. Some are curious about the birds and nesting platforms or just want to learn more about the preserve after having driven by so many times. No matter why people are there, Wright's happy to point out all there is to see.
"I try to get people familiar with the area and make them feel comfortable," he said.
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