July 12 2021

Storytime: Celebrating National Parks and Recreation Month

Storytime: Celebrating National Parks and Recreation Month

July is National Parks and Recreation Month and this year, the celebration is all about sharing stories. Your Five Rivers MetroParks has a rich history you can learn more about by tuning in to Decoding Nature each month for a new episode which will stream on local service Nearu TV. Sign up for a free account and watch the first episode here.

You also can explore Ohio’s history in your MetroParks, from Twin Creek MetroPark’s 2,000-year-old earthworks to 1880s farm life at Carriage Hill MetroPark’s historical farm. Find the best trails to find historical fun in this blog. You can also download MetroParks mobile app, powered by OuterSpatial, to take self-guided outings that highlight the history and points of interest in many MetroParks.

Because Five Rivers MetroParks’ story is also about people, we’ve invited our staff — and now, you — to share stories about your experiences at parks and elsewhere outdoors throughout the month.

Amy Forsthoefel, manager of research and analysis

Today we hear from MetroParks manager of research and analysis Amy Forsthoefel, who is a huge fan of seeing the world, growing her own food and spending time outside with her best bud, Rufus.

“The outdoors have been a significant part of my life from my earliest memories. As a kid, I played outside every day, regardless of weather or season.  Mom just wanted the six kids out of her house and hair, and we enjoyed the freedom to roam the neighborhood, the surrounding orchards, fields, creek and woods. We ate sweet clover and mulberries, and whatever was ripe in the garden. We picked up worms, crawfish, and anything we could catch with our hands. We climbed trees, splashed in puddles and made forts with whatever materials we could find. But we didn’t just play outside, we LIVED outside. Meals at the picnic table, celebrations in the backyard, time spent with friends and family at the lake, pool, or park, chores on the weekends  – I even read and did my homework in my favorite tree. Most of our family photos are in the backyard or on the front porch.

Both of my parents had a huge influence on my love of nature and the outdoors. My Dad was outside nearly 12 hours a day, year-round, for work and for pleasure. He instilled in me a love for the woods and streams, wildlife and big trees. My Mom loved to garden. She grew food to feed us all, preserving much for the winter months, just as her mother had. She also loved her flower garden and house plants, as both of my grandmothers did. I like to think I’m honoring them by growing food and preserving food myself, striving to have something always in bloom in my landscape, and bringing the outdoors inside through my many houseplants.

I still spend a part of everyday outside. I strive to spend at least an hour a day doing something outdoors…hike, garden, cycle, dine, read, hang with friends. I’m an avid traveler and most of my trips revolve around things I can see and do outdoors. I’m just happier outside. The outside is in me.”

Angie Sheldon, outdoor recreation coordinator & Jason Sullivan, trail technician

Image Credit: Mike Cooper

Today we hear from trail-loving siblings, Angie Sheldon and Jason Sullivan. As adults they both play an important role at MetroParks, but their love of nature started when they were just kids.

“We loved visiting parks, camping, playing in the back yard and spent countless days at our grandparents’ lake house swimming and fishing,” said Sheldon. “Many of our family adventures were in MetroParks. One of our favorite places to hike as a family was at Sugarcreek MetroPark. We hiked there often and, as we got older, we followed in our dad’s footsteps and started running there as well. Our whole family has always referred to the green trail at Sugarcreek as “The Loop,” and we can still be found out hiking or running it together.”

For Sheldon and Sullivan, the seed for appreciation of the outdoors and nature was planted at a young age and continued through higher education. Both chose college degrees in outdoor-related fields; Sullivan in wildlife science and Sheldon in zoology and environmental science.

“We’ve both managed to always find jobs that let us spend a lot of time outside – such as invasive plant removal with the U.S. Forest Service, leading outdoor adventure trips at summer camps, landscaping, and coordinating trail crews along the Appalachian Trail,” said Sheldon. “While we both have lived away in various states, we managed to find our way back to Dayton and seem to have landed the perfect jobs right here at home with Five Rivers MetroParks.”

Sullivan, a MetroParks trail technician, spends his days outdoors keeping the trails maintained, working with volunteers and occasionally snapping some amazing nature photos. Sheldon, a MetroParks outdoor recreation coordinator, spends her time teaching backpacking, camping and kayaking programs, and inspiring people to get out and explore our natural spaces.

When not at work, there’s still a good chance you’ll find these siblings out in a MetroPark. Sullivan will likely be trail running, birding, or photographing unique flora and fauna. Sheldon will likely be exploring creeks or hiking with her three little ones, in hopes that they, too, grow up with the same passion and enjoyment for the great outdoors as she did.

Chris Pion, director of parks and conservation

The perfect person to start with is MetroParks’ director of parks and conservation, Chris Pion, who has been with Five Rivers MetroParks since 1996. Pion started as a farm intern and seasonal technician at Possum Creek MetroPark. He then made a move to Island MetroPark, where he served as a park technician with current MetroParks employees Joe Mitchell, Chris Landis and Paul Williams.

“Since starting with the agency in 1996, I have had the amazing privilege of working with so many skilled, dedicated and passionate people who make this agency great,” Pion said. “With each position, I’ve learned new skills and had new experiences that have provided tools for the next one. I have built friendships that will last a lifetime and have been involved in projects that have positively impacted the community.”

In 2019, Pion gathered the group of co-workers and friends to recreate the original photo 20 years later. Sadly, Vickie Kovach (also pictured), the urban zone area manager at the time, has since passed away.

The MetroParks staff featured above have a collective 80 years of parks and recreation experience and play a critical role in protecting the region’s natural heritage.

“For me, there has always been satisfaction in the fact that Five Rivers MetroParks is purpose-driven. The work we do at all levels within the agency means something to the community,” Pion said.  “I take pride in the fact that our work is important, meaningful and appreciated by so many people. As an employee, my roles over the years have changed dramatically but with each change, I have been thankful to be a part of the MetroParks family and have found value in the part that I have played and will continue to play.”

Do you have a story about an experience in your Five Rivers MetroParks you want to share? Tag us using social media on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, and we’ll feature some of our favorites.

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