Mark Volpe loved nature, and as that became apparent to CEO Jim Campbell, Campbell gave him a job only suitable to a conservationist -- manager of the private nature preserve behind the Chapin Manufacturing factory on Ellicott Street in Batavia.
Volpe worked for Chapin for 35 years with much of that time dedicated to the care and maintenance of the 70-acre preserve. He died in November 2018.
In addressing visitors at the conservation area Friday, Campbell stressed the importance of staying on the marked trails while explaining the slice of nature Volpe tended.
"This 70 acres encompasses meadows, hardwood forests, lowlands, wetlands, and actually open water," Campbell said. "It's quite a diverse ecosystem."
Volpe's dedication to the preserve was marked today with a ribbon-cutting by his widow Louise Volpe on a bridge that now ties together the east side and the west side of the property.
Volpe's children and grandchildren were also present to walk with Louise across the bridge for the first time.
"He just enjoyed coming out here," Louise said. "I would come out here with him. He loved nature, the earth, and everything about it. He was just that kind of person who is an outdoorsman. He loved it. That's why he jumped at the opportunity to take over out here when Jimmy asked him, so I think that was kind of special what Jim did."
The bridge was actually Mark Volpe's idea. The property is divided by a wide, shallow stream, so to access the conservation area, one would have to come in either from the east or west side and not be able to cross over.
"Mark did plan this before his passing," Campbell said. "He was working with his good friend Jeff McGivern. Jeff and his crew actually built this bridge. This bridge is actually a repurposed dragline. For those who don't know what a dragline is, it's really like a big crane. This was the boom of a dragline that Jeff repurposed. It's 110 feet long. Maybe it doesn't look that great, but it actually can hold probably about seven or eight tons. So it's very safe."
Mark's brother is John Volpe, who is also active locally in environmental causes.
Volpe's daughter Melissa Miller closed the private ceremony with a thank you message for Campbell and everybody at Chapin.
"We would like to thank everyone at Chapin's who created this memorial in honor of my dad," she said. "As you all know, he devoted his life to his family and his job here at Chapin's. He also had many hobbies and activities that he loved. One of his favorites was spending time outdoors with nature. He was extremely passionate about it and found profound meaning in all things relating to nature. We are extremely grateful and honored that you are remembering him in such a beautiful and special way in a way that embodies who he truly was, and in a place that he loved so much. This tribute means so much to all of us. And I know my dad would be honored and so happy to be remembered this way."
Employees of Chapin's are welcome to visit the conservation area at any time. The rest of the public is allowed to hike the property with the company's prior permission. There is no hunting or fishing permitted on the property. Visitors are required to stay on trails, both to protect the environment and for their own safety.