Behind the Parks: Meet Marty at Slate Run

Marty Shull
Park Manager, Slate Run Metro Park

Marty Shull at Slate Run Metro Park. Photo Virginia Gordon

Hometown and Background

I was raised in the Columbus suburb of Grandview Heights. My mother remarried when I was in 6th grade, and I had two older stepbrothers, John and Kevin. In high school I ran cross-country in the fall, wrestled in the winter, and ran track in the spring. After graduation I planned to go to Ohio State. I even attended freshman orientation, but my heart was not in it. I had something else in mind. Without sharing my plans, I went to a Marine recruiter’s office. And so it was that on December 1, 1988, I got word that I would leave for Marine Corps Boot Camp on December 11. It was only then that I told my mom. I told her she didn’t need to worry about finding a way to pay for college tuition. I hoped this would make my choice acceptable to her, but in fact she was very upset by my decision.

I enlisted for a four-year commitment and headed off to Boot Camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, in South Carolina. After Boot Camp, I was assigned to Fort Sill in Oklahoma to train as a forward observer with an infantry battalion. My role, basically, was to get to observation posts ahead of our front lines, and call in artillery strikes. I was later assigned to the Naval Amphibious Base at Little Creek at Virginia Beach and went to naval gunfire school. As a naval gun fire specialist, I was trained to direct mortar, naval gun fire and air strikes against targets.

Marty and a fellow Marine and still close-friend on a naval gun fire range in the Philippines, during a live ammunition training exercise.

I was assigned to the Third Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan, where I served with the 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment. I was stationed in Japan for 14 months and loved it there. I lived in an off-base apartment owned by a Japanese gentleman with three other Marines from the Naval Gun Fire section of our platoon. I would have been really happy to finish my four-year commitment at Okinawa. I enjoyed the culture and snorkeling, but most of all, I enjoyed the camaraderie of those friends that had become my brothers.

We did various military exercises across Asia Pacific, some off Korea, restaging Korean War battles with modern equipment. We also staged military exercises in the Philippines, based out of the US Naval Base at Subic Bay. I got to spend some personal time there and discovered that the people were very friendly and that the country itself was stunningly beautiful.

Marty and Marine Corps friends on a night out in the Philippines.

I was stationed in California when on August 1, 1990, I heard a report on CNN that Iraq had just invaded Kuwait. Sixteen days later, I found myself in Saudi Arabia, near the Kuwait border, as part of Desert Shield, the build-up of coalition forces for what would soon become Operation Desert Storm, and the start of the first Gulf War. I learned to hate sand. I rarely got to sleep in a bed, or even a cot on the floor, and on many nights I would simply dig a hole in the sand and sleep there. We secured a forward location base on the Persian Gulf Coast, very close to the Kuwait border. Later we went into Khafji to clear out Iraqis building by building after they launched an attack on the border town. My company walked into Kuwait itself about four days before the ground war started, to clear mine fields and secure an airfield, and then we fought further north along the oil fields that Saddam Hussein set on fire. Eventually we went north of Kuwait City and back down Highway 80, which earned the name “Highway of Death.”

After my military service, I returned to civilian life and in fact went to Ohio State University to major in political science. When my biological father died in a plane crash it completely changed the course of my life. I dropped out of college and spent my time hunting and fishing and wondering what to do with myself. I asked the Ohio Department of Natural Resources how I could get a job with them, and they suggested I study wildlife management at Hocking College. So, I enrolled at Hocking College, and was traveling every day from Columbus to Nelsonville, all while still working 40 hours a week in the service industry and trying to earn a living.

I met the then Metro Parks Human Resources Director, Carole Burchfield, at a job fair during my second year at Hocking College, and I landed a position as a seasonal maintenance technician at Blacklick Woods Metro Park. This was in the summer of 1996. The following year, I obtained a permanent position as a part-time ranger, also at Blacklick Woods, and later that year I got a full-time job as a maintenance technician at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park.

I’ve made quite a few moves over my years of service with Metro Parks. In October 2000 I became a full-time park ranger at Highbanks Metro Park, and in August the following year I became a commissioned officer. In March 2002 I was a ranger at Three Creeks for about six months, before being promoted to assistant manager at Inniswood Metro Gardens. I returned to Three Creeks as the assistant manager on April 2005, and moved to Clear Creek in the same position in February 2006. I was promoted to manager at Clear Creek in March 2015 and I loved every minute of my time there. Finally, in February 2020, I became the manager at Slate Run Metro Park, where I also oversee one of Metro Parks’ crown jewels, the Slate Run Living Historical Farm.

What I do at Metro Parks and what I love most about it

As park managers, we all have a responsibility to ensure that our parks meet Metro Parks’ operational standards every day and this involves a lot of long-term planning and administration, but I also enjoy opportunities to be hands-on now and again; to get out on the brush hog, mow or take out unwanted invasive growth.

Marty in his office at Slate Run Metro Park. Photo Virginia Gordon

In my role of manager, I especially appreciate the chance to help people advance their own career goals. Metro Parks has been really good to me, and I see it as my responsibility to help hard-working, good people make their own progress through the ranks here. This is also part of the long-term planning that will keep Metro Parks thriving. One of the other district-wide improvements I have championed is better toilet facilities. Since 2017 I have been involved in adding vault concrete toilets to many parks. I have become known, informally, as the “King of the Crappers” and it’s a title that makes me smile. I try to find a sense of humor in everything I do and everyone that’s been to a Metro Parks Operations Department meeting will know that all too well. Of course, as a manager it is a constant pleasure to get out in the park and talk to and interact with our park visitors.

My favorite Metro Parks activity

I really enjoy opportunities to go off-trail, or off the beaten path, as it were, and see the hidden beauties in our parks. I worked with staff at Clear Creek to help develop a series of backcountry hikes, so visitors could also experience this pleasure for themselves. Clear Creek has so many wonderful hidden parts. Former Clear Creek naturalist Marcy Shaffer helped me set these up, and current naturalist Katie Bennett has expanded these programs. I’ve been on many of these backcountry hikes myself and they’re a great way to discover why things grow, and why they grow where they do.

Marty by a giant red oak at Clear Creek, which is perhaps over 500 years old, on the route of one the park’s backcountry hikes.

I also enjoy going back to the other parks that I’ve worked at and seeing how some of the changes I helped incorporate are still going strong, such as shelters we built on my watch, and trail improvements that we made. I love walking on woodland trails. I think I must have been a Druid in an earlier life, as I love trees so much.

My favorite Metro Parks story that includes a positive visitor interaction

One year at Clear Creek, I had a really eye-opening and pleasing interaction with a young man from the Columbus City Schools Internship program (CSI). In this long-standing Metro Parks program high-school students are given opportunities to take part in an eight-week internship program that teaches them about careers in parks and natural resources management. This particular young man had certainly never traveled outside the Columbus Outer Belt before. I met him at the Barnebey-Hambleton area, and he said to me that he would love to see a ridge. And I said to him, ‘You’re standing on a RIDGE right now!’ Seeing his expression and the joy in his face has been a lasting memory for me and reinforced that I’m so lucky to work where I do.

Another interaction was less pleasing, less positive, if you will, but it was an important one, and it underscores my own increasing interest in Veteran’s Affairs. At a Red, White and Boom event, down at Scioto Audubon Metro Park, a veteran from campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan had caused some trouble in the crowd. He was clearly struggling with issues related to his service to our country, and being a veteran myself I was able to speak his own language and get him to calm down.

Traveling – places I’ve been, places I’d love to go

I love traveling. I got the taste for it when I served in the Marine Corps. One of the most beautiful places I’ve been to is the island of Fiji, where I went on my honeymoon with my wife, Jennifer. It’s a place we would go back to again in a heartbeat. While there, we visited a local village for a kava ceremony. The village was very primitive but fantastic; there was a sign in the village, dating from 1969, which said that “cannibalism is outlawed.” Well, thank goodness for that! But the people were actually quite wonderful. I especially enjoy being near the ocean. I love going to the Caribbean or anywhere in the Tropics. In the future I would like to visit Belize in Central America and the Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, about 800 miles east of mainland Africa.

The Shulls in Saint Lucia, an island in the Caribbean | Jennifer, Joe and Marty by a waterfall; Marty and Jennifer on the beach at sunset; a view of one of the Pitons, two volcanic plugs on Saint Lucia, and of a catamaran that the Shulls sailed on around the island.

Most of my travels, however, are in the United States. I am just back from a trip to a charitable fundraising event in Harbor Springs, Michigan. The charity, Team Honor, was co-founded by a friend of mine from the Marines to support Gold Star and Blue Star families as well as veterans. The event centered around the Zoo-De-Mack bike ride, a 51-mile bike ride along Lake Michigan, stretching from the Highlands Resort outside Harbor Springs to Mackinaw City, and the Mackinac Island ferry. I did not participate in the bicycle ride, but I did participate in the alternative golf event and my wife and I stayed on an extra day to enjoy the resort and get in another round of golf.

Marty with two close friends and fellow Marine Corps veterans, who met up again after many years at last month’s Team Honor event in Michigan.

Fun facts about me and my family

1. My family! I met my wife, Jennifer, in 1999. She worked for a friend of mine. In fact, I’d gone to see my friend, but spent a lot of time talking to Jennifer instead. Something clicked, because we went out on a date the next day and got married on September 29, 2001. We got married at Cedar Ridge Lodge in Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. Jennifer is originally from Chicago. When we met, she was about to graduate from OSU and start work as a radiologic technologist, or x-ray tech. She is now a nurse practitioner working at a hospital in Logan, close to our home.

We live in Hide-A-Way Hills, in Hocking County. We stumbled across this place in August 2001 and although we hadn’t intended to buy a home that early, we fell in love with the house. Hide-A-Way Hills has its own golf course and a 100-acre lake, called Lake of the Four Seasons. We have a pontoon boat and love to relax on the lake. Our boat is named “The Curmudgeon,” which Jennifer says is named after me!

The Shulls’ pontoon boat, The Curmudgeon, named, according to Mrs Shull, after its captain, also seen here at the helm.

I have two boys. Will, aged 24, was a scholarship athlete running cross country and track at Winthrop University in South Carolina and dealt with a few injuries. Now, he is working on his Physical Therapy Assistant certificate at Hocking College. He was already set on his future career choice, but those injuries added weight to his intention. Our other son, Joe, will turn 20 in November. He is studying electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford University. He finishes his freshman year on June 8 and Jennifer and I are heading out to California to bring him home for the summer. We intend to spend a little time in San Francisco and to do some hiking in Muir Woods among the giant redwoods. When we get back to Ohio, Joe is going to spend the summer working as a seasonal technician at Walnut Woods Metro Park.

Marty flanked by his sons Will (left) and Joe (right) on a golf course in the Bear Foot Golf Resorts in South Carolina.

2. Our Family Movie! All four of us love the movie Volunteers with Tom Hanks and John Candy. It’s a comedy about a group of Peace Corps volunteers who go to Thailand to build a bridge for the locals. Tom Hanks’ character is only there because he swapped places with a friend in the hope of evading his gambling debts. The other two volunteers believe in their mission of helping people. When one of the locals takes an interest in the bridge, because it will allow him to expand his drug trade, comedy chaos ensues. Although it has no connection with Christmas, it has become the movie we watch every year at Christmas time. I love some of the lines from the film, especially when the Tom Hanks character says, “It’s not that I can’t help these people. It’s just that I don’t want to.”

3. Cats and dogs! We have had a cat for 16 years who we call Smith. She’s named after the character Agent Smith from The Matrix. She was a feral cat that we’d often see at Clear Creek roaming around near the Starmer House. Then, one day, it seemed she decided she didn’t want to be wild anymore and she came home with me. Over the years, I’ve also had a number of black Labradors. Our last one, Roxie, got along famously well with Smith. Before Roxie, I had another black lab, named Bob, short for Miss Roberta. She often used to come to work with me and enjoyed riding in the park truck.

The Shulls after a successful fishing session for flounder in the inner coastal waters of North Carolina. But did they take any of their catch home for Roxie and Smith to enjoy?

My favorite food and dessert

At least three times a year, we all go out to Moretti’s Restaurant on Sawmill Road, and I always have the Veal Moretti. It’s the most delicious meal I’ve ever had. As they describe it on their menu, it’s “lightly breaded veal with mushrooms topped with mozzarella cheese over fettuccine in a cream sauce.” That doesn’t do it justice. An absolutely amazing meal. I usually have it with a salad, or a starter of their wedding soup. In high school, I used to wait tables or work in the kitchen at an Italian restaurant in Grandview Heights and I learned a lot about cooking good Italian food during those times.

I do most of the cooking at home, and we eat a lot of fish. I like to cook salmon a couple of times a week. My favorite way is the simplest, cooking it on a grill with garlic and olive oil marinade, with just the right amount of salt and pepper. I have four different grills at the back of our house, a charcoal grill with a smoker, an electric smoker, a gas grill, and a large flat top.

I’m not a big dessert eater, but I do enjoy a good apple pie.

The Shull family on the deck of their back garden, where Marty has four different grills ready to go.

My favorite entertainment

During the summer months, I love to spend as much time as I can out on the boat or working outside on the house. I’m planning on building a model garden train for our back garden. I also enjoy listening to music. I’m a big fan of The Grateful Dead, who were brilliant at merging all manner of different musical styles into their songs, including rock, blues, jazz, bluegrass, country, and even hints of gospel and reggae. I’m also a fan of Goose, who do Indie and Groove music. I like to watch some of their concerts on streaming.

In the winter, I turn to reading. I enjoy spy novels, especially the Tom Clancy books. Some of my favorite reads, recently, have been the best-selling The Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, with its subsidiary title, A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life; The Imperial Cruise, by James Bradley, about American foreign policy in the Pacific during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and his Secretary of War —and future president— William Taft, who had previously been America’s civilian governor of the Philippines; the classic The Art of War, by Sun Tzu; the ancient classic about Taoism, Tao Te Ching by Loa Tzu; and also Six Silent Men, by Reynel Martinez, about the work of the 101st Long Range Recon Rangers.

Jennifer and I are also big fans of OSU football. We had season tickets to The Shoe for many years. One of our ambitions is to see OSU play at every away stadium in the Big Ten.

If I had just 60 seconds to share why I love working at Metro Parks, I’d say…

Metro Parks is a wonderful organization where I’ve enjoyed a really fulfilling career. People have the opportunity to succeed here, and it’s marvelous to see how much our visitors enjoy their time at the parks.

Marty Shull was talking to Communications Coordinator, Virginia Gordon

What Manager of Park Operations, Jen Boniface, says about Marty

“Marty is dedicated to the success of Metro Parks. His passion for the job is something that everyone should strive for.”

4 thoughts on “Behind the Parks: Meet Marty at Slate Run

  1. Thank you Marty for choosing to serve our country! I’m glad we highlighted a veteran here near Memorial Day and on June 6th! Well done.

  2. Marty,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your life in the military, your schooling, the metro parks, your personal interests and a little of your family.
    Thank you for sharing so many aspects of you.

  3. Thank you Marty for your service to protecting our freedoms! It was a pleasure working along side of you at Inniswood. I will be forever grateful for how you helped me find the park visitor’s keys.

  4. What a life to date! I really enjoyed learning about you, your family and career. I currently volunteer at BDC Park. When at OSU in the early 70s, I spent a spring quarter at Barneby. Dr. Good was my college advisor.

    I frequently visit Slate Run with my granddaughter.

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