By Roger Van Frank
Darke Co. Parks
I am absolutely amazed by the number of hours contributed to the Park District through the spirit of volunteerism. This village that we call Darke County is responsible for the success of our Darke County Parks. Literally tens of thousands of hours have been volunteered over the past 50 years.
The Friends of the Darke County Parks, the Friends of Bear’s Mill, along with the Friends of Fort Jefferson are all special interest volunteer groups that are available to individuals and groups alike to make a difference in your community. It is because of these individuals and groups that this is such a strong park system! Darke County Parks has something for everyone.
There are so many volunteer opportunities including; biking, canoe and kayak rentals, special event programs, maple syrup and sap collecting, adopt a trail and adopt a park, gardening, maintenance and repair, trail education, animal care, office duties at all facilities, and yes, I am sure there are more I have missed. Volunteering is important, not only to staff, but also your own well-being and that of the “village”.
Over the past 21 years of service I have made life-long friendships with volunteers in all of these different opportunities. We are preparing our stewards of tomorrow so that our preserves will be here for their generation. As some of you have heard me tell this story, I most likely would not be in this field of employment were it not for my Father and Mother taking long summer vacations to see National, State and County Parks in the 60’s and 70’s. This definitely pointed out to me that preservation of our cultural and natural history is vitally important to all those that venture into these parks. It pointed me in the direction for my education and personal interests in the Parks Systems.
It is up to the “village” to motivate and point our stewards in the direction of preservation, conservation, and education of our natural resources. The self-satisfaction I receive each time I interact with volunteers and our stewards of tomorrow reminds me how important our jobs are within this “village”. We are extremely grateful that the Darke County community supports us in all ways, both fiscally and physically attending our programs and special events.
I want to once again remind everyone that we have special interest groups that can meet your needs and they need your volunteer spirit, whether it be the Friends of the Darke County Park District, the Friends of Fort Jefferson or the Friends of Bear’s Mill. Each of these groups have specific mission statements and work extremely hard to meet the goals of their missions. I am sure they have different events and projects for anyone to help whether a group or individual! Remember the Benefits of Parks and Recreation are Endless! It takes a “village”!