Friday, October 16, 2009

Parks chief retires (West goes south)

Handed a barrel with a whole lot of problems, Dan West is retiring as chief of the Ohio Division of Parks and Recreation.

West, 53 years old, has had to shepherd an agency for 13 years that continued to see its budget slashed and reputation degraded by administrations that didn't care and legislatures that ignored the agency's plight.

He served under three administrations as chief and several others as the agency's assistant chief.

Now West will officially retire though he'll stay within the industry. He's taken an assistant director job with the Broward County, Florida, County Parks System. He will start Nov. 2, after leaving Ohio at the end of this month.

Broward's parks system includes a new shooting range, horse stables, campgrounds, nature preserves, ocean-side beach parks and a large water park.

Simply put, West most likely just plain became burned out and over-taxed. Pity since West became one of the best chiefs that Parks and Recreation ever had.

West has been with Parks and Recreation for 32 years.

"It's been quite a ride and has been fun, though I do want to keep working for another 10 or 15 years," West said.

"I think it's just the right time to move on. I loved my job and not everyone in my profession can say that. We've accomplished a lot and still have more to do like getting Wingfoot Lake on line and working with Middle Bass Islands as ell as taking over the Ohio Canal Lands program from the Division of Water."

As chief, West oversaw about 430 full-time employees, or about one-half of what it was in 1991. The agency has 74 state parks encompassing 177,000 acres and an operating budget of $31 million, slashed several times over the years.

Other activities include grants to local park districts as well as the Office of Trails, which programs to motorized and non-motorized trail building throughout the state.

"We still have a dedicated staff, even with the budget cuts," West said.

"I just want to give it a shot and I'm looking forward to the new challenges that I'll face."

An announcement on a replacement will be named later though the Ohio Department of Natural Resources director will likely first appoint an interim division chief.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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