Log Lunch with Molly Pickel '15: Parks & Rec…Knope, It’s Not Like on TV

Last Friday, students, faculty, and community members gathered in the Log for the final log lunch of the semester. Log Lunchers enjoyed vegetable spring rolls with a sweet chili sauce as well as sesame coconut rice with mango and a maple-miso roasted vegetable medley made with fresh syrup from Hopkins Forest. To complement the beautiful spring day, everyone also enjoyed a quick pickled salad with scallions, cabbage, pea shoots, cucumbers, and bean sprouts supplied by Full Well Farm as well as a warm egg drop. Perhaps the star of the show this week were the giant, chewy gochujang caramel cookies. 

This week’s speaker was Molly Pickel, class of 2015. Pickel was a Mystic program student and  English & Environmental Policy major, now working for the Parks Department as a Natural Resource Planner in Baltimore County, Maryland. Pickel’s hilarious talk was entitled “Parks & Rec…Knope, It’s Not Like on TV,” and focused on the opportunities and challenges of parks and recreation work, acknowledging its similarities and differences to the hit sitcom. 

Pickel began with an overview of her career journey. After graduating from Williams, she became a deckhand for the Sea Education Association’ where she sailed and studied ocean sciences for months at a time. She then became a Naturalist at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. She then moved on to become the Communications and Outreach Coordinator at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology where she was also allowed to attend free graduate school at Towson University where she was awarded her master’s degree in Geography and Environmental Planning. She eventually became the Parks Planner at the Baltimore County Department of Parks and Recreation, and only just moved on to a new job within the past month. 

Much of Pickel’s talk was focused on using pickleball – the fastest growing sport in America – as a microcosm for natural resource planning and Parks & Rec. Pickleball has thus become somewhat of a focus of her work. She has created partnerships with local libraries (she jokes that while Leslie Knope hates librarians, she loves them!), developed a nuanced park-finder, and discussed the many other ways that she has been trying to accommodate the rapidly-growing athletic trend. 

In terms of broader natural resource planning, she noted the three main planning projects she has undertaken thus far in career, the first one being her Williamstown Open Space and Recreation Plan that she completed as a component of her ENVI Planning class at Williams. She is also responsible for the Baltimore County Land Preservation, Parks, and Recreation Plan as well as the Maryland Land Preservation, Parks, and Recreation Plan. She then discussed why plans are necessary, how they work, and how she creates them. Pickel gave an engaging, insightful talk that left students and community members laughing!