Ready to move forward with park district


By Robb Clifford

Darke County Parks

Welcome to winter! Astronomically speaking, winter doesn’t begin until the solstice on Dec. 21, when the day is the shortest. This dark season is welcomed by our Christmas lights and family gatherings. Perhaps that is why in more recent history, the colloquial start to winter has become Thanksgiving or even Nov. 1st! While this season can be far from a favorite for many, I’ve always found this to be a season of beauty. The crisp frost on the prairie grass, the crunch of snow underfoot and the brilliant red of a cardinal are uniquely winter. This winter beauty is also why your Darke County Parks continue to offer programming throughout the winter months. A chance to give a “reason” to venture outside and discover the wonders of winter firsthand. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced this and more over the last 16 years here with Darke County Parks.

Speaking of winter beauty, I hope many of you got a chance to experience our double-feature of luminary events at the start of the month. The Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland luminary event at Shawnee Prairie was an event I started upon my arrival at Darke County Parks, and is still my favorite. The glow of hundreds of candles shimmering throughout the winter woods warms the heart, no matter the temperature. With the addition of Historic Bear’s Mill to the district and the Candlelight Walk, there is even more opportunity to enjoy the warm glow and to welcome winter. Thanks to all who visited this year and started the Holiday season with us.

As I move into my new role as director with the district, I’m very excited to continue what we’ve been working and growing towards these past many seasons. Last year we celebrated 50 years. We’ve come a long way and have done a lot of good. I look forward to guiding the dDistrict into the start of its next 50 years as we look to evolve while continuing to meet the needs of the community.

I am fortunate to be guiding an amazing staff, many of which I’ve worked with my entire career. We all work together very well (most of the time!) and I think it shows throughout the dDistrict. Like all close-knit groups, there are disagreements and “off-days”, but this staff is amazing and extremely passionate about their roles and that shows in all that they do.

As we move forward, there will be changes; it’s inevitable. But, I hope that any of these changes will be explored by all with an open heart to see if it is indeed a better fit. We may try some things only to find that we need to change again, b. But growth is always good and we will continue to grow to serve this great community. I strive to guide the parks in what the public wants and needs. We will be exploring surveying techniques, with the hopes to ensure that we’re delivering on our mission. “The Mission of the Darke County Park District is to acquire and preserve land areas possessing special natural and historical features and to manage and maintain these resources for the benefit of its residents through appropriate educational and passive recreational programs and activities.”

My office door will always be open, and I hope to meet many of you in the coming months and years. If you plan to stop by, give me a call/email if possible, so I don’t miss you. I have every intention of actively being in the field, and in the park itself as often as possible, whether to offer a hand to my staff or to experience the parks from the user’s eye as well as the manager’s eye. Don’t be surprised to see me attending or leading nature/bird walks in the future. Hmmm… Birding with the Director? We’ll see what the seasons bring. Thank you for your continued support and I’ll see you on the Trails!

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