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Published: Friday, 1/19/2001

The Editors: Metroparks' chief ready for challenge

Most people connect with the Toledo Area Metroparks through the land - the district's nine parks - James Spengler, new metroparks director, said yesterday during a taping of The Editors television program.

“But when you get on the programming side of an organization and how the naturalists interact with young children, older adults - to me that's the fascinating, exciting thing to see. People just come alive about nature,” Mr. Spengler said.

He replaced Jean T. Ward, longtime director of the system, who retired at the end of 2000. He is the former director of the Arlington, Texas, parks department and has run parks systems in Prince William County, Virginia, and Bakersfield, Calif.

Mr. Spengler has been impressed by the diversity of the metroparks' landscape, from riverfront land to open prairie. “It's a very well-thought-out collection of property,” he said.

Many park districts try to buy land ahead of where they expect the population to move. But the metroparks decided early on, regardless of population growth, “to try and preserve the most significant natural features, environmental features, of this region,” he said. “That is what makes this area different from any other I've worked with in the country.”

Such parks as Oak Openings Preserve are the result.

Mr. Spengler was questioned by Thomas Walton, vice president-editor of The Blade, and Marilou Johanek, of The Blade editorial board. The Editors will be broadcast at 9 tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.

The metroparks district will manage the Fallen Timbers battlefield site near I-475 and U.S. 24, with help from the National Park Service. Mr. Spengler worked with the park service in his job in Virginia.

“The challenge for us is to take advantage of all their skills and talents,” he said. “The park service has some of the most talented park staff, historians, botanists, biologists in the world.”

The victory by American forces at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 led to the Treaty of Greenville the next year, which helped open the way to westward expansion by the new nation. Because the battle was so pivotal, the site is significant in “explaining the history of our country and how it was developed, not only for this region, but the whole west,” he said.

But deciding how to present the site to visitors will involve hard choices, Mr. Spengler said.



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