DCP Naturalist Pence chosen to share impact video at conference


By Tammy Watts


GREENVILLE — Darke County Parks’ own Mitchell Pence was chosen to share his impact statement at the 2022 Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) Conference and Trade Show, held in Sandusky, from Feb. 6 to 9. Parks Districts throughout the state of Ohio had begun receiving emails from OPRA, beginning last September, inviting staff to submit stories on how parks had impacted their lives. Pence submitted his entry, and in November, was notified that he was a finalist.

For the next step, Pence went to Fairfield, north of Cincinnati, to film a short video. While there, he had the opportunity to meet and interview with OPRA Executive Director Woody Woodward. Woodward subsequently invited him to attend the conference in Sandusky.

“I always thought the conference was more for the parks leadership, for people like Roger,” Pence said, referring to DCP Director Roger Van Frank. “It was exciting to be around like-minded people,” adding that he filled a whole folder with information, notes, and ideas for future parks projects. Furthermore, his impact video was one of only eight selected to be shown at the OPRA conference.

Pence remarked that all the stories shared in the selected videos were unique. “One person had battled cancer; another had suffered a loss, and spending time in the parks helped them.”

In his video, Pence discussed how parks and nature were a lifelong passion, ever since his parents brought him to the DCP nature center at the age of two. As he grew older, he attended camps, and later volunteered, to become more involved with the parks. He began pursuing a two-year degree in Wildlife Resource Management at Hocking College. An internship was required as part of the program, and Pence came back to Darke County Parks to complete it. “I went back to the park district that I knew and loved, and worked there through the summer, getting to see what it was like to be a naturalist.”

Upon completing his degree, Pence was hired by DCP as a part-time, then a full-time naturalist. “Now, here I am working for the very park district that started it all. Being out in nature fuels my mind, body, spirit, and it also fuels my drive that I want to share this with my community.”

Contact Daily Advocate Reporter Tammy Watts at [email protected].

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