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Posted: 12/12/12

Long-time interpreters
retire from Metroparks

Observer Staff Writer
      A combined work experience of nearly 60 years will leave the local parks as two long-time program coordinators and interpreters step down.
       William Thomas and Doug Spiller, supervising interpreters with Huron-Clinton Metroparks, will retire from their positions as of Dec. 31.
       Denise Semion, Metroparks communications chief, said the retirements are part of the parks undergoing re-districting plans, including the Lake St. Clair, Wolcott and Stony Creek Metroparks.
       "Where there were once two supervisors we now have one," she said. "The same concept is being applied to other departments as well, including interpretative services."
       Thomas has been employed for the past 44 years with Huron-Clinton Metroparks. He began as an interpreter for Kensington Metropark Nature Center, then brought on as a full-time interpreter for Stony Creek Metropark Nature Center. In 1990 he began working as the supervising interpreter at the Wolcott Mill Metropark.
       "In a park setting like we're at, we're set up for recreation, and if you think about it a lot of people recreate through education," he said. "On a nice day people like to get out and enjoy nature, so interpreters are trying to help them enjoy those things."
       During his time at the Metroparks, he said he assisted in having the mill placed on the National Register of Historic Sites and Michigan's State Register of Historic Sites.
       He also took part in hosting Civil War re-enactments, initiating maple sugaring programs and implementing the Heritage Holidays each December.
       "It's an education as well as recreational," he said. "It's something that adds to their experience in the park system."
       He said he believes interpreting is something people are born to do, but also attributes it to wanting to preserve history or knowledge.
       "It's having a certain love with certain aspects, like nature and history, and they like to share with other people," he said. "If we consider these things unimportant, they will disappear."
       He said once he retires he plans to work on his farm and spend more time with his wife.
       Spiller is retiring after 15 years of employment with the Metroparks. He began in 1997 as farm manager/supervising interpreter at Wolcott, then in 2004 became supervising interpreter at Stony Creek. In 2011 he added supervising interpretive programs at Wolcott Mill's Farm Center.
       "Working for the Metroparks has been a wonderful experience," he said. "I've been really lucky, the people we get to work with at the Metroparks are very good people, very professional."
       One of his major projects included the creation of a replica farmhouse and the displays that were installed in the building.
       He also worked on programs such as Farm Halloween, Easter Egg Scramble and holiday programs as well as programs for individuals, families and groups.
       "When I first started, about 7,000 to 8,000 or so people came, by the time I left the nature center was doing more than 80,000," he said.
       He said his interpretation career began when he did an internship at the Metroparks and discovered he enjoyed it, and applied for a position once there was an opening.
       "I think many people can learn to do interpretive programs that support the training, but I think there are individuals that have a knack or affinity for it," he said.
       He said once he retires he plans to relocate to the Florida Keys with his wife and continue their pastimes like scuba diving and boating.

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