ALERT: Enter Your Design in Our County Park T-Shirt Contest by April 30th Contest Rules
ALERT: Botna Bend's Newly Renovated South Campground is Now Open with Full Hookup Sites.
ALERT: Full hookup camping sites are now available at Hitchcock Nature Center for $30 per night.

Volunteer Spotlight: Westy Inspires Visitors to Reconnect with Nature

Posted on 7/13/2023
by Westy Nelson, Pottawattamie Conservation Volunteer
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, Westy.

Westy has spent the past 10 years supporting a little bit of everything at your county parks as a welcome desk ambassador at Hitchcock Nature Center's Loess Hills Lodge, an administrative volunteer who helps us process park memberships and more, and our very own interior design consultant for new cabin properties!

Westy in the woods.

"Nature is a gift of life, love, and peace. It gives me great joy to be out in nature and to see others also outdoors connecting to our physical world...It is rewarding to be a part of providing an understanding of nature, how to protect it, restore it, love it, and enjoy it. Volunteering at the park gives me access to helping the public experience all nature has to offer.

Hitchcock offers so many great programs, speakers, and activities to involve patrons who come to our park. It offers an opportunity for people to experience nature firsthand...Volunteering here has also inspired me to be more mindful of natural resources, recycling what and when I can, and converting areas of my lawn to native species which support pollinators and our lives.

It has been a great education, learning about the migration of butterflies and birds and the tagging of butterflies and banding of birds. Bird counts and bandings inform us about our environment and the extent to which our climates are changing, how our land has changed over the years as well as the habits of wildlife and man, among many other things. It is interesting and essential to understand how all of this is connected to each and every one of us, our planet, and our natural resources.

There are just so many meaningful educational programs offered and it is fun being a part of it. The staff is kind, caring, knowledgeable, fun, and invested. They are always grateful for the time volunteers provide.

Growing up on a small ranch in the sandhills of Nebraska and spending all the time I could playing outside, riding horses, working in the hayfield in the summer, gardening, exploring every ditch, pond and secret hiding place, and making dresses for my cats and dolls shaped my life. After high school, I moved to Chicago and worked for Eastern Airlines and eventually graduated from nursing school and worked as a registered nurse at Douglas County Hospital in Omaha. After the kids were in school I found work part-time in the design field and eventually opened my own interior design business. I loved all of my varied careers and especially the one of being a wife and Mom.

After retiring, my love of nature and the outdoors inspired me to make a goal to ride my bicycle 1,000 miles each year for the next 10 consecutive years. I am happy to report I am entering my tenth year of completing that goal.

I am grateful and fortunate to have a supportive family of four children, 10 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, many great friends, and my Hitchcock family."


Volunteers like Westy 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! Her 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


Next Blog
Potawattamie Conservation Rejoices Impact Created in First Year of Operating Mt. Crescent Ski Area (7/18/2023)
by Craig Carlsen, Public Relations Manager, Pottawattamie County

Previous Blog
Things to Look for with Your Little Tike: July (7/11/2023)
by Kylie Jacott, Promotions & Outreach Coordinator

More News and Blogs

All News & Blogs

Get a full year of free access to all Pottawattamie County parks.

Become a member of the Pottawattamie Conservation Foundation