Founding Director Pursues Next Journey
Updated: Aug 6
Since 2010, our volunteers have worked rain or shine to shape trails through stonework. At the heart and soul of our growth has also been our leadership - and we'd like to share some news with you. After 10 years of passionate dedication to our organization, Executive Director and Project Manager Christopher Ingui will be transitioning to a new adventure next month, as he dedicates himself fully to becoming a Landscape Architect while helping teach at Rutgers University! This comes as part of a thoughtful 18-month transition which Chris began alongside our Board of Directors in early 2019, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We're grateful for the huge amount of work that has taken place to set the Rovers up for continued success and growth into our future.
That said, the future doesn't happen without the past; our history with Chris has largely made us what we are today.
In 2010, the initial concept and planning for the Jolly Rovers Trail Crew had just begun. At that time, Chris became our founding director, and in 2011 launched our first full trail season alongside 11 other founding volunteer crew members. Over the next 10 years, Chris led the crew into becoming its own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, numbering 40 crew members strong, strengthening spirit and skill along the way! To do so, he gave countless hours on and off the clock, as well as on and off the trail.
Behind the scenes, Chris would create and manage much of the operational framework that continues to allow the Jolly Rovers to thrive to this day. In the field, he would be found on most weekends volunteering his time managing our projects throughout New York State or leading trail building workshops that would be held throughout the country. The Rover portfolio grew to include projects in over 30 different parks with partnerships of over 30 different government agencies and non-profit organizations. Since that first year, over 43,000 hours have been donated by our volunteer crew members during his tenure as Director, translating to over $1,000,000 of value to our public parks.
More important than the projects or their value however, Chris always valued the volunteers above all else. Regularly seeking personal input from crew members, he constantly kept his hand on the pulse of the tribe, guiding our growth while nurturing the spirit, community and fun that has always been integral as to why we kept showing up to do the creative work we do.
Please join us in wishing Chris the best in his new endeavor! With deep gratitude for the vision, spirit, and talent he has shared with the Rovers we are excited to see what he will create as a Landscape Architect in the future, and certainly look forward to seeing him around the campfire.
We also invite you to welcome our new Interim Executive Director, Leigh Draper, who comes to us with a wealth of experience from Teatown Lake Reservation (right, and above at left). Through her thirty-year career in outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship, Leigh has demonstrated a commitment to connecting people to nature, particularly youth, and encouraging people to play, learn, serve and work in the outdoors. Leigh has also known the Rovers since our inception, and has hosted several work projects through her role at Teatown.
In the words of board chair Emily Hague, "Leigh Draper has been a supporter of the Rovers since our early days. She brings more than a decade of experience in trail work and nonprofit governance. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her leadership style is a perfect fit for us. We are thrilled to be working with her as the organization grows."
The Crew Thanks Chris...
"Chris was not just our Executive Director and founder, but a patriarch of our family - the glue, the arbiter and super diplomat. I count him more as a friend than a colleague."
Alicia Mandelkow, Crew Leader
"Chris is a born leader with a unique ability to effectively guide without " ordering." He is an excellent communicator who manages to make everyone feel respected and 'heard'."
Bob Chapel, Crew Member
"Chris is super talented and a natural leader. He's taught us to do things we never would have thought we could do. He's taken us to so many beautiful places."
Robin French, Founding Crew Member
"Having worked with Chris for 11 years I know him as a man dedicated to his craft. He has been a prime mover in the development of the Jolly Rovers Trail Crew. The level of our success as dry-stack stone masons working on public access trails is in large part due to his efforts over the last 10 years."
Bob Brunner, Founding Crew Member