AngelaHuston@zoominternet.net   CRHuston@zoominternet.net

The baton of leadership is being passed. On December 6, a reception hosted by Friends of the Medina County Parks was held at Buffalo Creek Retreat in Seville to recognize both the outgoing and incoming park directors.

Friends and supporters of the Park System shared refreshments, time, and stories with outgoing director Tom James, and welcomed incoming director Nate Eppink in the friendly, casual setting.

After serving 25 years as Director of the Medina County Park District, Tom James is moving on to a well-deserved retirement; he will officially step down, following a brief advisory role, December 28. James will remain as a trustee for the 550-member Friends of the Medina County Parks organization.

Stepping into the position of director is Nate Eppink, who comes to Medina from the Summit Metro Parks System, where he served as director about 13 years; he officially assumed his new role here October 1. The Medina system is only about half the size of the district he left, but he is looking forward to being part of it and the Medina community. He will work with a staff of up to 35 employees and as many as 150 volunteers who serve in various but dedicated roles.

When James assumed the position of director, there were only about 1,000 acres of preserved land in the county. That number has grown to 65,000 acres that provide county residents with a vast number of outdoor opportunities in the now-existing 33 parks, preserves, sanctuaries, and nature/educational centers spread throughout the county, thanks to the foresight of enlightened citizens who initiated the establishment of the Park District in 1965 by petitioning the Probate Court.

Eppink is assuming the responsibility of continuing the legacy established by James, who, during his tenure, contributed so much to the growth of the park system. Eppink said James has been so helpful, a great resource, who has shared a wealth of information about the operation of this system that clearly is set up to succeed. It is Eppink's goal to make sure the process remains constant so the district will continue to grow and serve the county.

There is a strategic 10-year plan in place, set up in 2015, that will give the district a bit of a cushion of time to maintain what is already available as it works to increase and introduce more outdoor recreational options.

To learn more about the county's park system and its many opportunities, visit www.medinacountyparks.com.