LIMA — Continuing the success story that is the Johnny Appleseed Metropolitan Park District is the primary goal of the park district’s new executive director.
The series of parks and wild areas that constitute the county metropark system will continue to expand under the new leadership with Tyler Black. The Allen County native took over as executive director of the park system on July 2 following the retirement of longtime director Kevin Haver, who had been with the district as a park manager since April 1978.
“I have some big shoes to fill,” Black told members of the Lima Rotary Club on Monday, “but Kevin did a great job and we have a great staff of employees who all care about the park district.”
A graduate of Bath High School and Rio Grande University, Black spent three years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Colorado and Idaho before returning to Allen County in 2016 when he took a job with the Johnny Appleseed Park District. He and his wife reside in Bluffton with their three young children.
Black updated Rotarians on current park projects, all of which he said should all be completed by summer’s end. Those include paving and enhancing trails at Ottawa Metro Park, developing the new Cottonwood Trail Access site along Zion Church Road near the Kendrick Woods metropark and a new property that is being developed in southeast Allen County off state Route 117.
On Thursday the park district will formally unveil a new parking lot and access point along the Miami & Erie Canal towpath bike trail between Delphos and Spencerville. Black said the park will be named for a prominent community member, but he would not divulge who that person is.
All the work was made possible by grants obtained by the park district.
One park upgrades that has already been completed, Black said, is the installation of a new fishing deck at Ottawa Metro Park. The installation of a new set of playground equipment at Heritage Park is nearly complete.
Future projects include the addition of more flush toilets to replace pit-type facilities and the eventual construction of a new park district office.
There were just two parks at the time when Haver took over: Heritage Park and part of what is today the McLean Teddy Bear Park. He spent the next four decades acquiring land and raising funds to expand the county’s park system, which now spans 1,500 acres across 16 parks and trail networks.
Black praised Haver and the county commissioners for their foresight and budget planning that allowed the park district to keep the parks open, clean and safe as the county battles the COVID-19 pandemic.