December 7, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
Rod Ash pays tribute to Neil and Dixie Meyer of Salmon Prairie who received the first annual Volunteer of the Year Award from the Swan Ecosystem Center in Condon.
Neil and Dixie Meyer of Salmon Prairie have been honored with the first annual Volunteer of the Year Award at the Swan Ecosystem Center at Condon.
During Fourth of July activities last summer in Condon, the couple was recognized for their contributions to the Swan Ecosystem Center. Their names have been added to a plaque that is now on display at the Condon Work Center.
Neil and Dixie have contributed untold hours to forest stewardship and education projects at the Swan Ecosystem Center (SEC). In addition, this summer they organized community meetings and field trips to address weed problems in the valley, and they continue to help with Ad Hoc meetings that address natural resources issues. Neil has served as vice president of the Swan Ecosystem Center and he also serves as a board member for that organization. Neil worked in the logging industry for fifty years before retiring just a few years ago from that profession. Both Neil and Dixie enjoy working outdoors.
"It's fun, once you get going on a project," Dixie commented.
Neil affirms that they get a lot of satisfaction from the hours of volunteering. "It's worth it, I think. People are learning about forestry. We want people to keep seeing what's going on with the timber industry here," he explained.
Swan Ecosystem Center director, Anne Dahl, pointed out that Neil and Dixie Meyer are "nearly full-time" volunteers.
"Neil and Dixie donate more time than anyone else at SEC. They deserve the recognition," she explained.
The Meyers built benches for the mile-long Interpretive Trail behind the Condon Work Center. This summer they also constructed a tree cookie display along the trail to help people learn about tree growth in the Swan Valley. They also helped find materials related to forestry, history and logging which are now on display as exhibits in SEC's Visitor Center. And on a hot day last fall they poured the cement pad for the picnic shelter located behind the main offices at the Work Center compound.
In addition to helping out with education and interpretive projects, Neil also helps people manage forested land by sharing his appreciation for both the economic and the aesthetic value of trees. Neil recently explained that he wants to see future generations enjoy the forests of the Swan Valley. To that end, he and Dixie have also donated the use of about 50 acres of their land as a forest stewardship education project. Students from local schools take field trips to the property and are now in the process of making decisions about how to manage the trees on that land.
The Swan Ecosystem Center was formed in 1996. The organization, according to Dahl, has helped people learn more about forests and forest management on public and private land. She believes that the Ecosystem Center has become a place where people from different backgrounds with different ideas can work together for the good of the community on projects of mutual concern. Keeping the Condon Work Center open, after the Forest Service announced in 1995 that it might be closed, is one of the most visible accomplishments of the organization, she said.
Dahl knows that volunteers who work for the Swan Ecosystem Center at the Work Center and on various outdoor projects have helped alleviate the anger and polarization that existed in the community because of the drastic changes in the logging industry since the 1980s. She has seen the Forest Service, loggers and environmentalists work together when they focus on small projects of mutual concern, such as the Ponderosa Pine forest demonstration project just north of the Work Center.
Dahl pointed out that in rural communities like Condon many worthwhile projects happen only because of volunteers. "Projects wouldn't be finished if we had to pay people for all of their work," Dahl said. At a banquet held in 1999, SEC honored about 100 volunteers who contributed more than 1600 hours of work on projects ranging from education to forestry, recreation and history. Many of those people, like Neil and Dixie Meyer, are retired. "Our retired people here are energetic, and capable. They are dedicated to the well-being of the community," Dahl said.