After 2009’s successful levy campaign and funding for the MetroParks secure for another decade, Executive Director Charlie Shoemaker announced his retirement. Charlie’s last day with the MetroParks will be Feb. 28, ending his nine-year tenure as director of the park system and a 33-year career with MetroParks.
Some highlights of his career include overseeing the expansion MetroParks’ protected lands to over 15,000 acres, increasing the ratio of protected conservation areas to publically accessed spaces from 80:20 to 90:10. Five Rivers MetroParks is one of the few park districts in the state and even the nation to boast such numbers. In this writer’s opinion, one of the most enduring aspects of Charlie’s legacy will be his contribution to outdoor recreation. Under Charlie’s command, additional recreational facilities were created. The 22-mile Twin Valley Trail offers a backcountry backpacking experience stretched between Germantown and Twin Creek MetroParks. There’s also the popular MetroParks Mountain Biking Area (MoMBA) located at Huffman MetroPark. Both were introduced in 2008. Facilities such as these provide people with opportunities to enjoy a personal connection with nature while instilling healthy habits close to home. Active outdoor lifestyles not only promote public health, they can help attract and retain a talented workforce to the region, and the businesses who need them.
Another progressive activity MetroParks has undertaken under Charlie’s direction is the work being done on the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan. Five Rivers MetroParks is contributing to the riverfront, cycling amenities and active lifestyle features that make Dayton an attractive place to live, work and play.
Charlie is leaving some big shoes to fill, but we are fortunate to have a pair of highly qualified candidates to take his place. Rebecca A. “Becky” Benná, director of parks and recreation for the city of Glendale, Ariz., and Stephen Madewell, Lake Metroparks director in Lake County, Ohio. Both individuals have extensive backgrounds in land stewardship and advocating outdoor lifestyles, and your chance to meet them is coming up. Sign up for one of two open house sessions taking place this Friday, Jan. 28:
• Cox Arboretum MetroPark
o Madewell: 9 -9:40 a.m.
o Benná: 9:50-10:30 a.m.
• Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark
o Madewell: 10:30- 11:10 a.m.
o Benná: 11:20 a.m. to noon
Change can be difficult and can leave a lot of questions. The State of Ohio continues to reel from changes after the midterm elections, but we have the advantage in this instance of knowing that regardless of who takes the helm after Charlie retires, certain aspects of Five Rivers MetroParks and its mission to the region will remain consistent:
We promise to protect our natural heritage. Five Rivers MetroParks was founded in 1963 to preserve our natural spaces. We will continue this tradition, managing wildlife and this region’s natural habitats using the most practical and ecological methods available to ensure long-term health and survival. Five Rivers MetroParks will continue to protect land and waterways, nurture partnerships for local land conservation and habitat restoration, and support conservation-based educational programs and volunteer opportunities.
We promise to connect people to nature. Whether it’s through updating park areas to improve visitor experiences, teaching you the skills you need to get out doors—to go kayaking or bird watching, mountain biking or gardening—or developing nature play areas for children, Five Rivers MetroParks is committed to creating an independent outdoor lifestyle for our fellow residents and delivering a personal, long-lasting natural experience with every park visit.
We promise to enrich this region’s vitality. Five Rivers MetroParks will continue to collaborate with community partners to promote the region and showcase outdoor opportunities that advance Greater Dayton’s image and vibrancy. We will also continue to offer rewarding volunteer opportunities that foster learning and hands on application in a variety of MetroParks’ settings and disciplines.
We promise to respect your trust and continue as a model of public fiscal responsibility and integrity, giving good return on your tax investment. Five Rivers MetroParks will, where appropriate, aggressively seek alternate funding sources to stretch local tax dollars and keep spending focused on our strategic priorities while maintaining flexibility to respond to the ever changing community environment.
Thank you for your continued support, and I look forward to working with our new executive director as we continue to serve this population with opportunities to make a personal connection with nature.