Conservation Dept. looks for new assistant naturalist
BY BRYCE KELLY
Mt. Pleasant News
After the recent exit of one Henry County Conservation Department staff member, it’s now up to the Henry County Conservation Board to decide how to proceed in filling his shoes.
During Monday evening’s regular board meeting, Conservation Director John Pullis made the sad announcement that Park Ranger/Assistant Naturalist, Trenton Hoekstra, is no longer with the department.
“Trenton’s last day was last Tuesday,” Pullis announced to the board during Monday night’s regular meeting. “He gave me a two-week notice. I am not going to discuss the why’s of his leaving as that is more of a personal matter. In speaking with the staff, I think the best thing possible to do would be to get Cari (Nicely) help as soon as we can.”
Nicely, Henry County’s head Naturalist, worked closely with Hoekstra and with his departure from the department, is in need of a qualified individual to assist her. Although Nicely was unable to attend Monday’s meeting, Pullis said she had previously agreed that finding a suitable replacement to help her in her various duties would be greatly needed.
In addition to finding a helper for Nicely, the board had to discuss how to proceed with finding another Park Ranger.
“In losing Trenton, we also lost someone who was learning the maintenance, upkeep, regulations and overall supervision of the parks. That was the Park Ranger side of things that Trenton was in the process of training for,” explained Pullis.
At the time of his departure, Hoekstra had passed much of the written and psychological exams needed to be a certified park ranger. However, he had not yet entered and passed law enforcement academy training, nor had he gone through a physical fitness standard exam.
“Because Trenton was not yet fully qualified, he had not started much of his Park Ranger duties, so for the time being, that side of things won’t effect us too much. However, as we look into the future, we have some shoes to fill if we want to have someone down the road who can do that kind of stuff,” said Pullis.
For now, board members agreed that while having someone who can be qualified to act as both a Park Ranger and a naturalist would be ideal, finding an assistant naturalist for Nicely is top priority at this point in time.
“With Trenton helping Cari, we were in the schools a lot more and doing a lot more public education, which is really good. I don’t want to see us lessen that,” said board member Tony Brown. “I think we need to work towards finding Cari some help soon, and then down the road, look for another Park Ranger.”
With the board in agreement, Pullis said he would begin the process of advertising for an Assistant Naturalist. The board also agreed to further discuss when to look for a Park Ranger at a later meeting.
Besides discussing changes in staff, the board also talked briefly on purchasing new rule pamphlets for the county parks. After looking at various options, the board agreed to purchase eight-page pamphlets, which would be used to advertise the various activities and amenities offered within the county’s parks. In addition, the board also agreed to purchase pamphlets stating the rules and regulations of the parks and campgrounds, which would be available for campers and other visitors to the parks.
Pullis also received approval to begin the process of looking at replacing the department’s tractor and John Deere Gator – as both are in need of replacing.
Before adjourning, board member Jim Onorato was recognized for his service to the Henry County Conservation department. Monday’s meeting was Onorato’s last as a sitting board member as his term will be completed in December. He will be unable to attend December’s monthly meeting due to a scheduling conflict.
“It’s been fun,” Onorato told fellow board members. “If I could serve another 10 years, I would. I have really enjoyed working with you all.”
The Henry County Conservation Board will meet again in regular session on Monday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m., in the Henry County Conservation Board Room.