DCP jobs have been rewarding


By Megan Hammaker

Darke County Parks

What is it like working for a small park district? Well, I can tell you that it can be very rewarding, but sometimes you find yourself in a role that you never thought you’d be in! When I first started at Darke County Parks in 2019, I was hired on as a naturalist. As a naturalist, my core duties included putting together programs for the public, schools, and groups, leading summer camps, and helping with our annual events. However, my position also included taking on the Bish Discovery Center (BDC). When I walked into the BDC back in 2019, it was pretty close to an empty building. I knew immediately what direction I wanted to take the BDC, and I knew it was going to be a lot of work. The park district had extremely limited funds for special projects, like the interactive displays I imagined for the center. I had never written a grant before, but I quickly learned how to apply for local grants and eventually got comfortable enough that I applied for larger-scale grants as well. With the grant money the parks was awarded, I was able to start adding displays to the BDC. I am still working hard to develop the center, and even now I utilize grants when possible. To save money for some of these projects, I also quickly learned how to design effective signage for displays. The programs that I used to design these signs was also handy for designing social media ads, so I started to design and schedule promotions for programs and events, volunteer opportunities, and more. I soon found myself in the lead role of managing our social media pages.

In my constant endeavor to get visitors to the still-developing BDC, I dreamed up the idea for an outdoor rec-themed event. Last year was the first year for our Bash at Bish event and it was a huge success. Planning a large-scale event takes a lot of work and organization. First, you build an outline of what you want the event to be, and then you get to work figuring out how to make that outline a reality. The bigger your dreams, the more funding it takes. Sponsorships and grants are crucial for our community events. Last year was my first experience recruiting sponsorships and let me tell you, it’s a lot of work! While reaching out to local businesses and organizations, I was able to form relationships with many people in the community which I think is extremely important for the park district and its success.

Once you have funding and a solid outline of what you want your event to be, you then move to securing vendors and scheduling out the event. For your event to be successful you have to have main features and supporting features. For Bash at Bish, I wanted to bring the experience of a BMX show to the community. Luckily, I was referred to a great organization and was able to secure them for two shows at the event. I then filled in the rest of the event grounds with features including tree climbing, paddling, pump track, and more. For each feature, you must go through the process of a written agreement, whether it be a performance agreement, rental agreement, or a unique agreement.

Once you’ve planned your features, secured your vendors, and formed an event schedule, you then must figure out the role of each staff member. Our staff is fairly small, so we are always all hands on deck when we host a special event. We also work with a great group of volunteers. Volunteers are truly the backbone of our events, without them we would not be able to man every station. Stations can include anything from volunteer sign-in, setup/teardown, having the public sign waivers…the list goes on.

Then the day of the event comes and it’s a whirlwind. Everything chaotically falls into place and you get to see your months of hard work pay off as you, your coworkers, and the volunteers work together to make your event planning dreams come true. Seeing the smiling faces of the members of the community makes it all worth it.

After the success of the first event I have ever spearheaded, I was promoted to Special Events Coordinator. This year will be my first year coordinating not just Bash at Bish, but all of the park

district’s special events, which will also include Maple Sugarin’ Festival, Gathering at Garst, Tour de Darke, Raptor Run 5k, and Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland. This year, I am also coordinating events for the Solar Eclipse on April 8th!

My official title may now be Special Events Coordinator, but I still have my original naturalist duties and now also coordinate events, manage social media, coordinate grants and sponsorships, care for the park district’s animal ambassadors, and so much more. Working for a small park district can be a lot of work, but bringing experiences and opportunities to the community is extremely rewarding!

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