By Deb Patterson
Erlene Yentes is no stranger to the area, yet there is still a lot for her to explore. Yentes, the new executive director for the Syracuse-Wawasee Trails, has been coming to Dewart Lake for family vacations during the past 29 years.
“I’m familiar with some of the area,” she said. In fact she is currently residing with family at Dewart Lake until she can find a residence of her own.
Yentes, who began her new career Dec. 2, said “my dream job found me and I listened. The prospect of a job that involves trail development, maintenance and events to increase trail usage could be summed up with the quote ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.’” This is true for the Auburn native.
She enjoys biking, walking and any activity outdoors. This past summer she biked more than 500 miles on various trails, which she says is her hobby that began three years ago. Those included the Kal-Haven Trail in Michigan, from Kalamazoo to South Haven, trails around Saugatuck, Holland and Grand Haven. “Those are fun places to go and unwind. What’s nice about trails are you don’t have to worry about traffic.”
“I got a bicycle and started riding here and there. When I’m out on a bicycle I get clarity. There’s something about the fresh air.” She would even ride her bike to work in her previous position.
But her passion for bicycling goes beyond just riding. She enjoys collecting anything “bicycle.” If you visit her office you’ll find a wooden bicycle sitting on her desk, a pillow with a bicycle on a chair, coffee mugs about bicycling. “I look for bicycle stuff,” she said noting it is an adventure and looks for those little things. It goes beyond little things as well. She has a coffee table where the top is made from the bicycle rim, a shelf also made from a bicycle rim, a clock made out of a bicycle chain and many other unique items, including the wreath on her office door given to her by Kay Young, president of the trails board.
Noting she also enjoys anything outdoors, while at her previous job, she joined an ultimate frisbee league, which she said is like soccer but with a frisbee. She also enjoys reading anything that grabs her. Of course she enjoys the activities of the lake — water skiing, tubing, all things she will now be able to do again living in the area.
Yentes is a graduate of Tri-State/Trine University with a degree in applied management. She was employed at the university for 17 years in the alumni and development office where she worked on fundraising among other things.
She feels that job was a stepping stone for her current position. “I enjoy working with people as a collaborative team. This job allows me the flexibility to be in the office and outdoors.”
She plans on getting to know where everything is in the community, getting the lay of the land, meeting people and of course, walking/biking the Syracuse-Wawasee Trails. “My first goal is to get acclimated and explore. This is my dream job.”