Ryan Snide is a Griswold, CT resident who is a self employed Plumbing and Heating Service Professional with a life long passion for the outdoors. Raised in the Pachaug Forest and is the inception of becoming President of Friends of Pachaug Forest. Within the last year, Ryan joined Connecticut Forest and Park Association as a Trail Manager for the Quinabaug Trail, in Pachaug Forest. He also works with the various other trail building groups in the state. Ryan is a strong community advocate with a positive attitude, that works to inspire others. "If we all did things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves."
Vice President Bob Panko is a lifelong outdoorsman. Recreationally he has been a backpacker, mountaineer, hunter, fisherman, boating enthusiast, photographer, birdwatcher and general naturalist especially interested in botany and geology. Professionally Bob worked for 36 years as a US National Park Service employee; 25 years as a law enforcement and emergency services Ranger and 11 years as a wildland Fire Management Officer. While working throughout the US, he was a federally commissioned law enforcement officer, a criminal investigator, an advanced emergency medical technician, a technical search and rescue team leader and a wildland fire manager. Eventually Bob became a nationally certified Incident Commander and he managed very large wildfires and emergency responses nationwide. Although retired, Bob still does wildland fire management consulting, emergency and wildland fire management training and is a member of the New York State Incident Management Team. Bob also serves as an elected member of the Voluntown Inland Wetlands and Watercourses and the Planning and Zoning Commissions
Bob received his BS in Natural Resource Conservation from the University of Connecticut in 1976. His love of Pachaug State Forest goes back to family visits to Voluntown in the late 1960’s, when his family from New Jersey would make summer visits. Eventually his parents moved to Voluntown. In retirement Bob and his wife Jennifer now own and reside in the family home there.
Erica Pelish-Sundstrom grew up in Southeastern Connecticut. Erica received her BSW from Providence College and her MSW from Southern Connecticut State University. She is currently a school social worker at Putnam Elementary School. Erica is also a yoga teacher, receiving her Children's Certification in 2017 and her 200 hour Certification in 2018. Erica loves being outside and particularly enjoys hiking and kayaking.
Erica resides in Griswold with her husband, Ryan, and two children, Nick and Emma. Erica and Ryan attended a hike with Friends of Pachaug Forest and, since they enjoy spending time in the Forest, were drawn to the group's dedication to the forest as well as the sense of community.
Jen Panko grew up “down south” in Huntington, CT, retiring to Voluntown after a 37-year career with the National Park Service with assignments around the country at Mt. Rainier National Park, Everglades NP, Gateway National Recreation Area, Shenandoah NP and Fire Island National Seashore. Jen attended UConn (where she met her husband of 45 years, Bob) and graduated with a B.S. in Education. Jen enjoys birdwatching and hiking and hopes to one day become much more proficient at disembarking a kayak, having afforded Bob many moments of amusement up to this point in time.
"We have one home, Earth, and we must protect it and take care of one another". As a volunteer for FoPF, Allison supports our connections efforts on behalf of Friends of Pachaug Forest. She enjoys providing opportunities to learn about nature and the forest. She participated in the Naturalist program through the Goodwin Forest and she is aspires to set a path for educational opportunities to members and youth. She also participated in service learning projects and learned about the vibrant and diverse species of the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica which started her on her path of advocacy for nature and education. It was when she heard the song birds of Pachaug Forest in the Cloud Forest of Costa Rica that she realized how connected we all are in the world. Allison passionately serves to promote health equity, social justice and environmental justice. You can also find her volunteering as chair of the Land & Water committee for the CT Sierra Club.
Director of Information
For thirty years I have been very involved in holistic modes of emotional healing. I saw in concrete terms that immersion in nature provided balance and emotional recovery. I believe for those in our society who fail to connect to others and who suffer as a result, a bond with nature can establish a sense of connection and well being.
I had a personal relationship with Pachaug Forest for decades. However in the last year it has deepened into love. All the directors of Friends of Pachaug Forest feel that abiding sense of love and seek to share that with everybody through our organization.