The snow fell hard on Chardon on Tuesday morning, but the Geauga Park District Board of Commissioners tried harder as they held their regular meeting at Big Creek Park’s Donald W. Meyer Center and accepted the retirement of naturalist Dan Best after his nearly 33 years of work for the parks.
With his retirement, the board presented Mr. Best, 63, with a resolution of appreciation to recognize his work as chief naturalist, senior naturalist and naturalist with the parks.
Commissioner Andrej Lah read the resolution on behalf of the park board and all members of the Geauga Park District to Mr. Best to extend gratitude for his contributions and services.
“Fueled by his own lifelong excitement for the natural world, Dan has worked to foster an affinity and appreciation for Geauga County’s natural and cultural heritage through innovative programming, exhibitry and media,” Mr. Lah read.
According to the resolution, Mr. Best has helped in the production of the master plans of Orchard Hills Park, Observatory Park and Welton’s Gorge; he has guided the development of “numerous large-scale exhibits,” such as the Bio-Centennial, Wild Nights and Snowbelted, among others; he coached and trained other naturalists and volunteers in natural history and program facilitation; he inspired events such as the Meadowlark Music Festival, Tapper Ball and Maple Town Tune Traders; and notably worked on the award-winning “Beyond the Backyard” collaboration with the radio station WKSU from 1997 to 2001, among many other contributions to the Geauga Park District.
“It’s been a great run,” Mr. Best said after being presented with the appreciation. “After everything I’ve done here, with the board, the administration, the staff and all the departments and certainly the volunteers, I can’t accept any kind of recognition without recognizing those people,” he added, noting that he was able to do as much as he did for the parks because of the help of the various groups involved in the Geauga Park District.
“Dan is a legacy employee,” Executive Director John Oros said after the meeting. “When I say ‘legacy,’ he’s just brought so much to the organization in terms of helping the public really enjoy the plants, the animals, the habitats, the geology. He just made it a really enjoyable experience.”
He noted Mr. Best’s contributions to the “every age, every ability and at all times of the year” portion of the Geauga Park District’s mission including his work with Elderberries, naturalist led hikes for seniors and working with children to get them excited about nature.
“If we’re going to have the next generation of nature lovers, then we need someone to educate them, and our naturalist staff and Dan Best, they just do a phenomenal job,” he said.