Friends of the

Shawnee National Forest

Supporting and Preserving the Shawnee National Forest

Friends of the Shawnee National Forest relies on its active board members who help shape the organization and proceed with activities that will make it and the National Forest better for everyone. Without our dedicated board members, our organization would not be able to perform at its best for the users of the Shawnee National Forest. Now is your chance to meet the member of the Friends of the Shawnee National Forest board.

Vacant, Chair of the Board


Steve Melville, Board Member

Steve Melville (and his wife Tara) own and operate Rim Rocks Dogwood Cabins in the Eastern Shawnee. Steve is passionate about his civic duty of taking care of the Shawnee and has organized trash clean ups and trail maintenance work in the area while also promoting economic growth of the area through tourism with his work on several committee’s including being a board member of Southernmost Illinois Tourism.

Steve was born and raised in Saint Louis and has always been an outdoor enthusiast and avid traveler.

 Having visited most of the parks in the Midwest and many National Parks (with a goal to visit them all), he fully understands how amazing it is to call the Shawnee National Forest home. Steve has two teenage daughters; Loren and Katie who both share his passion for the outdoors.

Aur Beck, Board Member

Aur ‘da energy mon’ Beck is an energy efficiency advocate and is triple NABCEP Certified with his company, Advanced Energy Solutions ( ) installing solar since 1999. He is a founder and on the board of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association ( ).

 He has a weekly radio talk show, “Your Community Spirit,” ( ) but he would like to be known mostly for Oil Addicts Anonymous International (a real 12 step program), For fun he cooks, dances salsa and volunteers with Rotary.

Pat Jones, Board Member

Pat moved to Southern Illinois in 1998 from Texas.  He earned a Master of Arts in Mass Communication and Media at Southern Illinois University in 2004.  In 2014, he became the marketing and publicity coordinator at SIU’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center. Pat has a passion for the Shawnee National Forest and the great outdoors.  An avid hiker and photographer, among some of his favorite places in the Shawnee are Garden of the Gods, Kinkaid Lake, Little Grand Canyon and Snake Road.

Shawn Gossman, Board Member

Shawn Gossman is better known as Hiking with Shawn which is a YouTube and social media persona that he created when he started filming and shooting photography around his hiking, biking and outdoor adventures in and around the Shawnee National Forest. Shawn is an advocate of tourism and conservancy gripping onto the Natural Resources in southern Illinois is what can save southern Illinois. Shawn joined the Friends because he believes in making the Shawnee National Forest better for everyone who wants to enjoy it.

Shawn is also a board member of the River to River Trail Society and Friends of the Cache River Watershed. Shawn was born and raised in southern Illinois and currently lives in the country around the Pope-Massac county border. Shawn is a double master degree holder with an MBA and a Master of Emergency Management & Public Health. Shawn is a QA specialist for a medium voltage cable manufacturing company.

Leslie Ewell, Board Member

Leslie Ewell

Being a native of Southern Illinois and an Alumna of Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, I have spent countless hours, days, and even nights in the Shawnee National
Forest. My mother is a steward of the USFS and has always inspired and motivated me to follow
in her footsteps.

The past 25 years I lived in Jacksonville, FL where I was a volunteer and employee for
the Girl Scouts, all the while raising a family. My passion for marathon running (13 full marathon
finishes and over 50 halfs) led me to be a trainer for the local Galloway Marathon Group.
Now that I am officially back in the heart of Southern Illinois I have embraced my love,
enthusiasm, and respect for the outdoors and The Shawnee National Forest. Being a talented
artist and holding a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Photography, you will likely spot me in the
forest capturing images through my eye or sitting with a sketch book capturing the raw beauty of
the forest. I love and thrive in the lesser known areas and the “off the beaten path” areas of the
Shawnee. I’m excited to share my love, appreciation, and stewardship of the gem we have right
in our backyard.

Tom Caldwell, Board Member


Kristi Weaver

My primary career was as a Community College Instructor, in which I spent over 30 years teaching Logic, Ethics, Literature and Composition in the Missouri and Illinois systems. I retired in 2019, but along the way I earned an Applied Science degree in Horticulture and became a Certified Arborist through the International Society of Arboriculture. My wife, Nancy, is also a retired College Instructor, and we now reside south of Jonesboro on a property we have had formally recognized as a Certified Tree Farm.

I currently work part time in the Public Works Department for the City of Anna, where I serve as City Arborist. I’ve helped coordinate efforts to have Anna recognized as a Tree City USA through the National Arbor Foundation, and I’ve also written grants for the improvement of City green spaces.  My projects include a tree identification walking course in the City Park, riparian zone improvement at the source of the Cache River, and the establishment of the Sgt. Brian Romines green space memorial in the City Business Park.

I am a member of the AJ Garden Club, where I serve as chair of the Conservation and Arbor Day committees.


David Files, Board Member


I am a Southern Illinois native, growing up a short drive from the Shawnee National Forest. As a child I remember visiting the area on family outings, never wanting the days to end. Unfortunately, those days did end. I became a young grownup and went off to college.

College taught me all about mechanics, electrical, hydraulics/air logic, and blueprint reading, more than anyone would ever use in real life. The long road ahead of me took me to many different jobs, putting my playground farther behind me.

The first 15 years of work placed me in many different job duties all pertaining to my field of study. Year 16, put a little twist. Little did I know I was about to start using that Physiology 101 class that was never going to help me in the industrial field.

As club manager of the Elks Lodge, I still had to use my knowledge of all that other stuff along the way, but this was different for me. Dealing with all types of people, helping them plan their wedding receptions, birthday parties, and any other function that came along. Don’t forget all the other duties involved in running a social club, employee scheduling, payroll, billpaying, supply ordering, the list goes on.

Then one day I got a phone call from Toyota. A call that changes things for me with good pay, benefits, retirement plan, and opportunities for advancement. After twenty years at Toyota, I retired on my birthday in 2020 on my 56th birthday. My time at Toyota started in Logistics, then in Logistics Safety, and finally Skilled Maintenance.

This long road I have traveled has brought me back to my playground, the Shawnee National Forest. It is an honor to be accepted to the Friends Board, helping promote the land and stewardship, educate others, and share in the responsibility of outdoor activities for others. Sharing that playground, I have such fond memories of and plan on making more.

Thanks so much.


Our Mission

Friends of the Shawnee National Forest is a nonprofit organization that supports the Shawnee National Forest by promoting land stewardship, environmental education, and responsible outdoor recreation.

Copyright © 2020 Friends of the Shawnee National Forest. All Rights Reserved. Developed by Hiking with Shawn.