In honor of Great Parks’ 90th Birthday, former Naturalist Clerk Angie Brafford shares her story of growing up with Great Parks and how a love for nature is passed down from generation to generation.
When you think of parks, what do you think of? Do you think of hiking? Golfing? Boating? Camping? When I think of the parks, I think of family time and memories formed. You see, I had the chance of growing up at the parks – and working at them too!
My story begins before I was even born. It was June of 1978 when Ranger Bob Nuhn had his first day at Miami Whitewater Forest. His sister had told him to apply for the job, and he thought, “Well, why not?” Bob had served in the military, had a degree in entomology and had met a cute lady named Marty, so maybe this would be a good place to settle down (he is originally from Bethesda, Maryland). Sure enough, he got the job and not much time passed before he proposed to Marty at a picnic table in Miami Whitewater Forest. It was meant to be! Which makes me wonder how many other people have proposed at a park? Or lose the ring too? But that is a whole different story!
After dad and mom got married, they went on to raise two wonderful children … and guess who is one of them? My childhood was full of memories of camping at Winton Woods and riding bikes at Miami Whitewater Forest. We also explored the creek at Sharon Woods and walked the Blue Jacket Trail at Shawnee Lookout. As a teenager, I would escape to the parks to either get away from my “crazy” parents or relax and watch the ducks at Triple Creek. Come to think of it, as an adult, I still go to Triple Creek, but now it is to escape my five “crazy” daughters! (Send help!)
Ranger Bob retired in 2008 and began volunteering at the visitor center at Miami Whitewater Forest. I started working at Winton Woods in June 2010, 32 years after he had started. I enjoyed saying hello to the patrons that came in to ask questions like, “Who made those big nests across the lake on the top of the trees?” And if you guessed great blue heron, you are right! I felt at home working in the parks and formed many friendships there (Hey Winton Centre!). I loved telling people why fawns are OK left in your yard or at the window by the library. Mama is getting food and will come back at dusk, so no worries!
Now that I am a stay-at-home-mom, I value sharing my memories with my own family and making new ones. Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve has given me a new memory of my daughter repeatedly telling me the sign is upside down. Oh, the joys of learning to read!
In closing, thank you for all the memories, proposals and friendships formed since 1930. Thank you for the serenity and the escape, especially during COVID-19. Here’s to 90 more years of great things happening at Great Parks! (Pretty catchy, eh?). Now, go out and enjoy nature while standing six feet apart!
Angie Brafford, former Naturalist Clerk