By Steve Shaltry
Darke Co. Parks
If you believe a successful park system is good for the quality of life in your community, you are not alone. Countless surveys and studies have proven this. A good park system has a positive effect on property values and the attractiveness of the community to possible businesses locating in the area. Parks readily available for outdoor exercise have shown a positive effect on those taking advantage of offerings from the park system.
Public parks are often taken for granted. Routine gets in the way of visiting local parks. Sometimes it takes a resolution to be good to yourself and make a concerted effort to get yourself and the ones you care about out to visit these public sites. Perhaps try visiting for a walk at a particular park during each of our four seasons. Enjoy the sounds of the park. Listen for sounds and observe the sights unique to the park you are visiting. There is something special about putting your surroundings more important than yourself, sometimes. Respect the natural world. It is a living classroom for life.
I know there are many who have not been to a single one of Darke County Parks, but you still believe in parks and support them through voting for the tax levies or donating whatever you can to help. You are very important to us and the Darke County Park District truly appreciates your efforts.
I would like to ask all of you who care about the success of the Darke County Park District’s mission for your children and their children and generations to follow, to become members of the Friends of Darke County Parks.
The Friends is a 501c3 non Profit group that was organized in 1995 to promote and support the mission of the Darke County Parks through volunteerism and fundraising. We run the gift shop in the Nature Center at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and it is our yearlong fundraiser.
Special events provide the Friends with the opportunity to raise money, also. A perfect example will be the upcoming Waffle Breakfast, Saturday March 4th. Our sausage-waffle breakfast at the Nature Center will feed 600 plus people that morning, dine-in or takeout. The food is delicious and the maple syrup is soooo delicious. Maple syrup is produced in the Sugar Shack from locally gathered sap, boiled down to syrup, and sold to the public through the gift shop. This is our most labor intensive fundraiser.
The Friends provides money for various projects every year. Some of the projects are assistance to the park district to purchase equipment. The Friends bought a wood splitter to handle keeping our supply of wood ready to go for all kinds of events. We supply money in the form of a transportation grant to Darke County school districts to bus their fourth graders to Shawnee Prairie in the spring and fall for instruction. We assist the Naturalists with expenses associated with topical speakers, expenses with camps, and expenses for their continuing education by attendance at special seminars. A couple of our latest expenditures were for the printing of trail maps available for free to the public and the new automatic front doors controls of the Nature Center through a grant provided to us from the Harry D. Stephens Grant Fund.
The Friends sponsors focal groups, which provide special interest opportunities to utilize the Park facilities. Birders, Gardeners, and Photography groups are active now and utilize the parks to further their interests.
The Friends of Darke County Parks is in the annual membership drive time of the year. We ask that those of you who are supporters of the park system to make a statement of your belief in the need to preserve Darke County Parks by joining the Friends of Darke County Park District. The yearly membership fee of $10 is a small way of saying you believe in the mission of Darke County Parks.
There is a return for your financial investment. You will receive a 10% discount on all purchases in the gift shops at Bish Discovery Center and Shawnee Prairie all year. As a member, you will receive one free bike rental per month (April- October) and a free canoe/kayak rental per season (May-October) at the Bish Discovery Center if you so desire.
As a Member of the Friends you know you are making a positive impact for Darke County. Participate as you wish. Participate whenever and in whatever capacity you feel comfortable. I have found the best part of belonging to this group is the friendships and acquaintances you can make for the rest of your life.
To become a member, visit the park website, darkecountyparks.org, and follow prompts for membership application to the Friends of Darke County Parks. There are also information pamphlets about us at the Bish Discovery Center and the Nature Center at Shawnee Prairie Preserve.
No matter what you do for the park district, your involvement is what counts. Our Darke County Park District is a lasting legacy you are helping to maintain for future generations.