ODNR Parks Chief Dan West retires
COLUMBUS – One of Ohio’s most dedicated advocates for opening access to the outdoors and connecting people with nature recently announced his retirement. Dan West, Chief of Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Parks and Recreation, has been Chief since 1997 and an ODNR employee for 32 years.
“Dan West has been that rarest of managers,” said ODNR Director Sean Logan. “He combined a passion for the outdoors with sound management practice, an eye for detail and a vision for the future that combined what was needed, what was possible and what could be imagined.”
“He will be missed by us all,” Buckeye Lake Regional Parks Manager Tim Waln said.
Managing through budget cuts that decreased the number of Parks employees by nearly half since 1991, Chief West leaves Ohio with a park system that opens more green space to more people in more places at a lower tax burden than at any time. Under his watch, Ohio State Parks was named the nation’s best state park system, meriting the first-ever National Sports Foundation Gold Medal Award.
Ohio State Parks welcome more than 55 million visitors annually. They remain one of the four state park systems in the nation that are open, free of charge, to all who want to visit them. The Division manages 74 state parks encompassing 177,000 acres.
“Access to nature remains one of the greatest benefits that government can provide for its citizens,” Chief West said. “A park represents much more than a walk in the woods. It represents a classroom, a gym, a carbon trade center, an art gallery, a tourist attractor, a rehab center, a water purifier, a source of community, a laboratory, a library and more. If we didn’t have them, we’d demand them. It is hard to imagine a better use for our public dollars, and I hope Ohio will be able to find new funding for its unique park system.”
Upon his retirement October 30, Chief West will accept a position with the Broward County (Florida) Parks system. John Hunter, the current assistant chief and a 34-year veteran of Ohio State Parks system, has been named Acting Chief.