50 years of success – it’s a wrap


Roger M. Van Frank

Director of DCP

Fifty years of success and growth for Darke County Parks! This 50th year milestone has not only been a year of celebration but also a year of new and rekindled collaborations. Special programs, new programs, continued support, new growth and added responsibilities highlighted the Park District in 2022. Each month brought out new ideas and new partnerships with individual volunteers and volunteer groups. We absolutely could not accomplish our goals if not for those that volunteer time and funds. If I attempted to list all those involved I am sure that I would need much more than a 700 words or less newspaper column. Our support from the community is outstanding.

From a director’s viewpoint I am very blessed to have such a dedicated staff, park board of commissioners, volunteers and community that supports the operations and events that are provided to the region. Many special events and collaborations took place throughout this year. The DCCA began their art trail with the park district by choosing Shawnee Prairie Preserve as the site of the first installation. The Tecumseh statue was unveiled on June 17! This was a well-recognized addition to the Park District and has been viewed by dignitaries from three Shawnee tribes, along with Ohio dignitaries, including Lt. Governor John Husted, U.S. Congressman, Warren Davidson, and U.S. Senator, Rob Portman. Ohio State Senators Matt Huffman and Stephen Huffman along with Ohio State Representatives Jena Powell and Susan Manchester, have also recognized the importance and significance of the Tecumseh statue. I would be remiss if I did not mention Susan F. Gray, a prior Park Board Commissioner, who first had the idea and dream of recognizing Tecumseh in this manner. Susan spent over 36 years on the Park Board to see this Park District come to fruition and set the stage for this historic day.

Literally hundreds of programs and special events took place this year. Our regular events, such as Maple Sugarin’ on the Prairie, Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland, Prairie Days, and Open Houses at the Bish Discovery Center and Historic Bear’s Mill all took place, but with some new features. Many collaborations with businesses and organizations in the community yielded new program opportunities such as Forest Bathing with OM Your Day, workshops with Miller Flowers, Cats and Coffee with the Humane Society to encourage local adoptions of pets, partnership with Touch of Glass putting together our 50th anniversary logo in a special stained-glass ornament/sun catcher. Sponsorships from the community also helped us to offer first time events like the Tour de Darke and 5K Raptor Run (sponsors included Choice One Engineering, American Legion, Countryside Bike Shop, Wayne Healthcare, Eikenberrys IGA and the Coffee Pot). Many public programs such as conservation workshops and plant swaps at the Bish Discovery Center, nature hikes throughout our 13 preserves, and numerous paddling programs took place as well. This is just a small sampling of the collaborations created between these special groups and the Park District.

Our 51st year will bring even more exciting events along with our traditional annual events that the community has come to love and attend. We all look forward to continuing our collaborations with new groups and friends. The education of our young stewards of tomorrow will also continue from preschool to high school ages. I have had a great career working in Parks and Recreation that first started in my early formative years as my family traveled across these United States. Were it not for those early programs from “Rangers” in campaign hats at National, State, County and Local parks, I would not be in this career 45 years later. I continue to learn every day from the staff and from my peers in this field.

Hundreds of you have heard me declare that if you miss a day at Darke County Parks you miss A LOT!


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