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Published: Friday, 12/27/2013

Olander eliminates full-time programming position

Sandy Gratop organized the park's nature-based events for 13 years

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sandy Gratop at Olander Park. Sandy Gratop at Olander Park.
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For its weekly nature-based events, Olander Park System officials will look outside its employee base to hire groups specializing in nature and educational programs starting in the New Year.

Park officials eliminated a full-time programming position, staffed by Sandy Gratop for 13 years, and will instead hire parties or organizations specializing in child-based entertainment or education, which the park is known to host throughout the year. Many of the events tailored for family and children, including dog walks in the park, nature hikes, and night-time stargazing, were conducted by Mrs. Gratop.

Erika Buri, interim park director, said the board of commissioners approved the personnel change in executive session at its Oct. 21 board meeting, that included elimination of the position effective Jan. 1.

Ms. Buri said that Mrs. Gratop will no longer be an employee of Olander Park because of the decision.   

John Zeitler, an Olander Park commissioner, said the move would save the park district money, as an in-house programmer received $35,000 annually, plus health benefits. Contracting with organizations or individuals, who concentrate in one area or field, usually costs about $50 to $100 per session, he said. 

“We will present better programs for the public and save money,” Mr. Zeitler said.

Sylvania-area residents received a Pathfinder newsletter this month, announcing the change and detailing the programs scheduled for the months of January, February, and March.

Ms. Buri, interim park director, said that although programming will decrease from an average of three to four programs a week to one or two, it is seeking qualified people or organizations to host their shows or programs at one of the five parks under the Olander Park System umbrella. As such, she said, programming could increase in the future.

“My feeling is we will have more people interested in the programs, since we have contracted people with the specific qualifications,” she said.

That includes some who were already on the list of programs in past years, including puppeteer Joyce Davis, who used to run a nature-based preschool, Maureen Schell of ECO Discovery!, who hosts children activities centered on learning about birds’ feathers, crystals, and groundhogs, and retired Sylvania Public Librarian Mary Leugers, who provides children's books' programs.

With the change, Olander Park has added new speakers to the list as well, including Denise Gehring, a retired director of environmental programs for the Metroparks of Toledo.

Park officials will continue to handle registration and offer the staple events enjoyed throughout the year, including an Easter Egg Hunt, Halloween Hike, and the upcoming Annual Maple Sugaring Fest held March 22, Ms. Buri said.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.



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