Volunteer Spotlight: Jake AKA “Zoolander” of the Loess Hills Nordic Ski Patrol

Join us as we shine a light on Pottawattamie Conservation volunteers to thank them for their time and talents and recognize the difference they make in our community. Our volunteers ROCK!

Below, take a moment to meet Pottawattamie Conservation volunteer and *Loess Hills Nordic Ski Patrol member, Jake.

*What’s the Loess Hills Nordic Ski Patrol? The Loess Hills Nordic Ski Patrol (LHNSP) is a member of the Rocky Mountain Division of the National Ski Patrol and serves Hitchcock Nature Center. Members are organized and trained to provide year-round support to the Nature Center and their guests by patrolling trails, providing first aid services, and offering event support in all environments and conditions. They are also sponsoring our upcoming Intro to Backpacking course in May!


How long Jake has been a part of the Loess Hills Nordic Ski Patrol:

Let’s just say that Jake’s always been drawn to keeping people safe. At age 16 he got his first certification in first aid and became a lifeguard. In college, he became a first-responder while getting more involved in skiing, snowboarding, and rock climbing. Soon after he joined the Crescent Ski Patrol and has been a proud member of the Loess Hills Nordic Ski Patrol since 2016.


What Jake does as a member of the LHNSP:

Patrollers have many duties, but the most important is providing speedy medical support and first aid response. Jake also provides medical support for Hitchcock’s 100-mile endurance race hosted by the Greater Omaha Trail Runners (GOATz) every December, conducts prescribed burns with the Natural Areas Management team, helps maintain trails, and even assists with missing person searches. Like other patrollers, Jake takes continuing education classes, assists with outreach programs, and attends mountain rescue training to maintain his certifications.

Due to the size of Hitchcock Nature Center, our staff is especially grateful for Loess Hills Nordic Ski Patrol members like Jake who help visitors stay safe as they explore the park’s steep terrain or try their hand at backcountry camping.

Interested in joining the patrol? They are always looking for great people to join their team!


An interesting story or two from the trails:

“My most interesting rescue was a large dog. He was big like the dog in Sandlot and was suffering from exhaustion and his owners couldn’t get him back. We called it ‘Operation Hercules’ and had to bring a cart out to wheel him back.”

“Also, in 2019 we were doing a backcountry camping class and a bomb cyclone snowstorm came in. It was raining as we hiked out with campers, but then the weather turned to sleet, and then into whiteout conditions where over 14 inches of snow ended up falling throughout the night. Despite the crazy weather, we were able to get campers back to the lodge safely.”


Something Interesting About Jake:

No, it’s not his mean “Blue Steel'' impression that got Jake his nickname “Zoolander”—it’s because he works as a zookeeper at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo! It’s at the zoo where Jake met his wife, and they were married at Hitchcock Nature Center on a perfect fall day along Hohneke Trail in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Please help us send good tidings to Jake and his wife who are expecting twins later this year!

Thank you for keeping Hitchcock Nature Center beautiful and helping visitors (and their pups) stay safe on the trails, Jake!

Volunteers like Jake make a huge difference for our small organization by keeping our parks beautiful, providing a great experience for visitors, and supporting local conservation efforts that protect wildlife, pollinators, and us humans, too! Their dedication, along with all of our other amazing volunteers, allows us to reach more people about the importance of natural spaces and be good stewards of the land. We truly couldn't do it without our passionate volunteers and can't thank them enough for everything they do to support conservation work.


Explore Volunteer Opportunities & Apply Today

We are always looking for new faces to help us keep Pottawattamie Conservation parks beautiful and educate the public. Whether you prefer outdoors or indoors, our volunteer opportunities provide impactful ways for you to make a difference, connect with nature and support our community.

Regular volunteers have the option of setting their own schedule and are rewarded with educational opportunities and other benefits. Volunteers also receive an annual park permit and a discount on gift shop merchandise as a thank you for their efforts.

For more information on volunteer opportunities or to schedule a private volunteer project please contact Dana Kruse, Volunteer and Facilities Coordinator at (712) 545-3283 or email him at dana.kruse@pottcounty-ia.gov.

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