Martin’s influence on DCP continues


By Megan Hammaker

Darke County Parks

How much can you grow in five and half years? Well, that depends on a lot of things but one of the most influential factors is the people that you’re surrounded by. When I started with the Darke County Parks back in 2019, I would have never guessed that I would be going on a journey, one in which I would learn an immense amount of knowledge from my coworkers while also forming deep and meaningful friendships on the way. I was quiet and didn’t have a lot of confidence but with the right mentorship, all of that would change. Mandy Martin was that mentor for me. She did everything with passion, and I knew that if I wanted to inspire people to love the natural world, I needed to learn as much from her as I possibly could. I started by shadowing her programs, then eventually partnering and working with her on programs we were both passionate about. We quickly became close friends, sharing a love for all things nature, especially geology (rocks)!

Over the last several years, the programming staff at Darke County Parks continued to develop those close friendships while working as a team. Each person bringing their own talents and ideas to the table. Mitchell excelled during the COVID shut down, creating amazing content for the community while in-person programs were put on hold. I like to think that this paved his way to becoming the outstanding Outreach Coordinator that he is now. Mandy’s years of experience and her outside of the box ideas provided the most excellent programs for school aged children. Her ability to connect with audiences of all ages is unmatched. Mitchell and I have learned so much from her through the years and it has helped mold us into outstanding educators. As a team, we have always pushed ourselves to come up with fresh, new ideas in an attempt to provide the community with programs and events to enjoy.

As time went on, things began to change. We hit the ground running post-covid shut down and never stopped. New programs, new events, new titles all came and we eventually had to say our bittersweet goodbye to one of our valued teammates. One of Mandy’s forks in the road took her onto new opportunities. While I am sad at her departure, I know that she will accomplish amazing things whatever she decides to do. I will forever be grateful for the knowledge and passion that she shared with both Mitchell and I.

How much can you grow in five and half years? I was fortunate and had an amazing team, so I grew in strides the last few years. Even up until Mandy’s last week, she was still teaching us new things. Walking out of the office one day, she gasped. There in the prairie in front the nature center stood a long plant stalk. Of course Mitchell and I were a bit puzzled, but then Mandy explained. The plant was American Columbo. This plant is incredibly uncommon to find in our area. It is a member of the gentian family and has a strange reproductive strategy. It is a monocarpic perennial and exists only as a rosette of leaves near the ground for many years, without growing a stalk or blooming. This period of time in which only leaves grow can be up to 15 years. Then, suddenly in response to unknown triggers, the plant will shoot up a stalk that can reach upwards of 6 feet tall and develop 50-100 flowers in a beautiful cluster, called a panicle. The flowers are greenish yellow with purple speckles. Once the plant blooms, it reseeds itself and then dies, starting the process over again. How amazing? Once again, Mandy had taught us something new.

I can’t help but to think that the natural world was giving its nod of approval and most glorious send off to Mandy. A total solar eclipse and then this wonderful rare spectacle of a plant that she had learned about from Susan Gray, one of the original board members of the Darke County Parks. We will miss Mandy, but wish her well in the next chapter of her life. I hope that Mitchell and I, as well as the rest of the staff at DCP, can make her proud.

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