Trustee profile: Ruth Vail

Ruth Vail helps organize sanctuary files at the MNA office. Photo from MNA archives.

As a volunteer, Ruth Vail spent countless hours assisting with the review of sanctuary legal files.  Photo from MNA archives.

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Ruth Vail has been a dedicated member of the Michigan Nature Association since the mid-1970s, winning the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2009, helping the organization to achieve accreditation and now currently serving on the Board as Trustee-at-Large.

“It’s our turn as current board members to carry on with that mission and to assure a legacy of preservation as the founders did for us,” she said.

Vail said she holds her position in high esteem and is happy she now has more time to commit to MNA.

“We are so fortunate to live in Michigan and so it is our responsibility and our duty to preserve as much of the natural heritage as (we) can,” she said.

This responsibility is largely why she became involved in MNA, she said. One of her favorite parts about being involved with MNA was the ability to explore its hidden, protected gems, she said.

“One of my favorite memories was seeing Showy Lady’s-slipper orchids growing under some power lines in an obscure sanctuary in Oakland County,” Vail said. 

Upon this memory, Vail said she felt a sense of pride to belong to a group that strives to protect Michigan’s nature.

Beyond her stewardship, Vail also played a key role in helping MNA achieve accreditation in 2013.

“Mostly, I worked on the sanctuary legal files … making sure we know (each sanctuary’s) legal status, that we have deeds, access, adequate protection, tax-exempt status, title insurance, etc. (It) was daunting,” she said.

Despite how enormous the workload seemed, Vail, along with several other volunteers and MNA staff, were able to get the information MNA needed to achieve accreditation.

During this process, Vail had the chance to explore sanctuary files, prompting her to get out and visit different sanctuaries.

“The chance to visit one of the sanctuaries I’d been working on was just the greatest privilege,” she said. 

One memory was her visit to Five Lakes Muskegon Nature Sanctuary which she said was particularly rewarding.

Vail said she considers herself a “general citizen with concern and love for Michigan.” She said this quality is how she hopes to represent the board members.

“I try to think of my own years of sending in my membership dues and trusting that the Trustees were doing their best to spend money and energy wisely. I want to be a part of a board that is living up to their expectations,” she said.