Published February 16, 2022

Meet some of the employees at your Five Rivers MetroParks

Heads up! This article was published 2 years ago.

Rich history is part of Five Rivers MetroParks’ story, and many employees have been with the agency for years to experience it unfold firsthand. In honor of Black History Month, we profile just a few of MetroParks’ employees who keep your parks and other locations clean, safe and open year-round.

Interested in joining them? Your Five Rivers MetroParks is hiring for full- and part-time positions. Take a job that makes a difference: Get started at metroparks.org/careers.

Brandon Wilson

Currently a park technician at Possum Creek MetroPark, Wilson has been with Five Rivers MetroParks for 17 years. He began his career as a part-time employee at Adventure Central at Wesleyan MetroPark and was a full-time park technician for 12 years at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark.

“If you can think of it, we do it: mowing grass, trash removal, taking care of the park, doing trail checks and clearing trail corridors, stocking the fishing ponds, maintaining the campsites and park, and making sure our vehicles and equipment are in good shape,” he said of his job. “The days are never the same.”

At Possum Creek, Wilson also plays the roles of farmer and animal caretaker, maintaining the park’s farm and community garden plots, as well as caring for the rabbits, chickens, sheep, donkey and other animals who call the Possum Creek farm home. Indeed, Wilson cites working with community gardeners and the animals as his favorite experiences during his time at MetroParks.

“Watching people who’ve never gardened get their first harvest is awesome, especially when you get to help them through the process,” Wilson said. “Interacting with visitors at the farm is also awesome — especially the kids who don’t see animals all the time. You see their faces light up, and they learn something different.”

Wilson also would love to see more people learn something about different MetroParks.

“A lot of people don’t venture too far from the park nearest to them, but MetroParks has so many facilities that are just as good,” he said. “It would be great to have someone who usually goes to Sugarcreek come to Possum Creek and see what it has to offer. Possum Creek has a lot of history people don’t know about, and you can hike the trails and not see that many people. It’s pretty quiet.”

That solitude in nature is especially beneficial during this pandemic, Wilson noted.

“MetroParks provides those things that help people get out and recharge by going hiking or camping or just sitting on a bench near the lake and vegging out,” he said. “MetroParks is a place where you can get away and not have to worry about COVID or gas prices. You can just go there and lose yourself in the woods or while fishing or horseback riding.”

Learn more about Possum Creek MetroPark at metroparks.org/possum-creek.

Lois Woods

Woods began her MetroParks career with a one-year volunteer gig at Adventure Central (AC) and has now worked at AC for 20 years. She started as a receptionist and today is the administrative assistant at AC, an after-school and summer youth enrichment program at Wesleyan MetroPark that’s a partnership between Five Rivers MetroParks, The Ohio State University Extension and 4-H.

Woods still enjoys volunteering for MetroParks: In addition to working with a “fabulous crew” and the families at Adventure Central, she really enjoys volunteering during the Wagner Subaru Outdoor Experience, MetroParks’ festival celebrating outdoor adventure held the first weekend in October at Eastwood MetroPark.

When it comes to Adventure Central and Wesleyan MetroPark, Woods said they are “hidden gems that are right in the open in west Dayton. Our slogan at Adventure Central is, ‘AC is the best place to be,’ and that is the same for any of the parks that are visited within Five Rivers MetroParks.”

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She also particularly enjoys Wegerzyn Gardens and RiverScape MetroParks, as well as the 2nd Street Market.

“MetroParks is a place for everyone in the community,” Woods said. “Five Rivers MetroParks gives that community an opportunity to get outside, either by taking a leisurely walk at Wegerzyn or RiverScape, joining friends at RiverScape for one of the summer music series concerts, and by trying new things like fly fishing and canoeing at the Wagner Subaru Outdoor Experience. Five Rivers MetroParks is a great staple within Dayton and the surrounding area by continuing to have events for everyone.”

Learn more about Adventure Central at metroparks.org/adventure-central. Mark your calendars for Oct. 1 & 2, when the Wagner Subaru Outdoor Experience returns to Eastwood MetroPark; learn more at outdoorx.org.

(Joe Mitchell, Chris Landis, Chris Pion, Paul Williams)

Paul Williams

Other than 10 months as a park technician, Williams has been a manager during his 28 years with Five Rivers MetroParks. He currently is the regional park manager for MetroParks’ urban zone, which includes such parks as Sunrise, RiverScape, Deeds Point, Island and Wesleyan MetroParks, as well as portions of the Great Miami, Stillwater and Wolf Creek paved trails. In addition, Williams was elected to and currently is serving a three-year term as treasurer for the Ohio Park and Recreation Association’s board.

“I work in the parks and conservation department and lead four operation groups that maintain parks, trails and facilities,” Williams said. “The staff’s efforts in carrying out maintenance tasks provides the community places to enjoy outdoor experiences and have their own personal connection to nature.”

During his tenure, Williams has witnessed a number of historical events, such as the first July 4 fireworks festival held at RiverScape MetroPark, which drew an estimated 100,000 people. “All you could see was a sea of people that extended to adjacent areas a mile out,” he said.

Some of these history-making happenings are among Williams’ most remarkable times at Five Rivers MetroParks.

“My first favorite experience was being a part of the transformation of Island MetroPark after Five Rivers MetroParks took over the park in 1995,” he said. “I visited Island many times as a kid, but it became different at that point. I felt the weight of being a steward of the park and making sure people had great experiences upon their visit — just as I did when I was a kid.

“My second favorite experience,” Williams added, “was being a part of the leadership team when Van Cleve MetroPark was developed into RiverScape MetroPark. The excitement that was being generated with the Schuster Center, the Dayton Dragons’ stadium and RiverScape felt like the start of something really good for downtown Dayton.”

For Williams, Five Rivers MetroParks has been and is good for more than downtown Dayton. It’s good for individuals: “There are opportunities to experience programming that will grow your understanding of the park areas and river corridors that the agency maintains,” he said.

And it’s been good for the community: “Five Rivers MetroParks has been a great steward of land throughout the region, and that goes back to the start of the agency in 1963,” Williams said. “MetroParks will continue to be a leader in the region to protect and promote land, trails and waterways. MetroParks will be further recognized as a leader in outdoor recreation and demonstrating best practices toward sustainability.”

Learn more about Five Rivers MetroParks’ history at metroparks.org/history.

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