Assistant Park Manager, Clear Creek Metro Park
Hometown and background
I was born in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, but my family moved to Steubenville, Ohio when I was one year old. My family name, Martineau, is French-Canadian. We’re a Catholic family, and Steubenville is noted as the home of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, a renowned Catholic institution. My father is a graduate of the university. The town took its name from Fort Steuben, built in 1797, which itself was named after Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who served under George Washington and played a major role in the Revolutionary War.
I left Steubenville to study at Hocking College, and graduated with an associate degree in natural resources. I saw openings for part-time ranger and part-time maintenance positions at Metro Parks and was able to get an interview for a maintenance position at Three Creeks in November 2003. I don’t know how impressive I was in the interview itself, but when I told my interviewers that I needed to get off to Dayton as my son was being born at 1:30 that afternoon, that seemed to impress them. It was a great day all around! My son Michael was born later that day, and a couple of days later I heard that I had got the job too!
In 2006 I moved to Inniswood Metro Gardens to a full-time maintenance technician role. Three years later, I moved to the same role at Blacklick Woods Metro Park, and a year later was promoted to a maintenance technician II position at Sharon Woods. In March 2020, I was promoted to my current role as Assistant Manager at Clear Creek. I lived in Westerville at the time, and of course the pandemic hit soon after, which put obstacles in the way of finding living accommodation closer to work. But in summer 2021 I moved to Lancaster.
What I do at Metro Parks
At Clear Creek, we have a smaller staff than most of the parks, yet we’re the second largest park, at more than 5,300 acres. It means that everyone has something of a Jack-, or Jill- of All Trades about them, and we all pitch in to keep this special park looking at and functioning at its best for park visitors. I still get to do quite a lot of maintenance work, as well as management duties, offer occasional help with nature programs, and make regular patrols of the park. Because of the sandstone base at Clear Creek, our trees don’t have especially deep roots, and we get a lot of fallen trees during the summer storm season. This past summer was especially challenging. Obviously, we need to clear fallen trees as quickly as possible from public trails, but also from some of the non-public trails up on the ridges, which we use for programs.
What I love most about my job
What I love most about my job is that I work with very like-minded people. I think we’re all nature geeks here at Clear Creek. We all take pleasure in seeing birds and wildlife, identifying plants and insects and just enjoying the spectacular scenery as we go about our daily work. This park is all about nature, less so about recreation, although we do have some terrific hiking trails and good fishing here. We’re the largest state nature preserve in the state of Ohio.
My favorite Metro Parks activity
I love hiking, and seeing birds and scenery along the trails. I think our staff do a great job at all the parks in keeping our trails in excellent condition, but there’s one trail in particular that’s special to me. That’s the Hemlock Trail here at Clear Creek. There are some steep elevations on the trail that make it physically difficult, but if any visitors are up for the challenge, I always recommend the Hemlock Trail to them. It’s only one and a half miles in total, but the steep ravine that you go up and down makes it feel longer. But what a hike! The scenery is great. There are small streams and beautiful ferns everywhere, and you go through a number of hemlock groves and see lots of exposed sandstone outcrops.
My favorite Metro Parks story that includes a positive visitor interaction
More often than you’d think, we get a lot of happy endings for people who thought they had lost things out on the trails. Only a couple of weeks ago, I was called in to the park on a non-working day as a hiker had become unwell out on one of the trails. When I arrived at the trail head, a woman approached me and said she herself had been on that trail earlier in the day and believed she had lost her cell phone somewhere up on the ridge. I tried to reassure the lady that found items were often handed in to our ‘lost and found’ cache and I took her contact information. The priority at that moment, of course, was the unwell hiker, and we were able to safely get him down from the ridge and get him medical attention. It all ended well for the unwell hiker, and for the lady who had lost her cell phone. I was able to call her later in the day to tell her that a young hiker, not even in his teens, had found her phone and handed it in to us. The lady came to pick up her phone the next day and was very complimentary about our staff and also about our visitors, especially the youngster who had found her phone.
If I could go anywhere in the world and time and money were not a concern…
I would like to take the Grand Art Tour of Europe, and spend a few months doing it. One of my closest friends in high school days went on a shorter version of the tour, about three weeks. His father was an art professor, so he got his love of art from him. He regaled me with stories of seeing all the great paintings in the Louvre in Paris, including the Mona Lisa, and about the remnants of the Ancient Roman Empire still standing in modern day Rome. I would especially love to see those Roman ruins. I’d also want to spend some time in Scotland on the tour. My mom’s side of the family is Scottish. They lived in the Highlands but life became increasingly hard in the Highlands, because of political troubles, and there was little work to be had. The family moved to Ireland, and later a number of family members came to the United States to work on the railroads. My sister has been to the Highlands of Scotland and her stories about its natural beauty and great hiking routes make me want to go there even more.
Life news to share
I’m one of nine kids in my family, six of us are boys. All the boys love sports, and we get that from our dad. But I got a love of all the creative arts from my mom. She’s extremely talented with arts and crafts, and turns it to practical as well as artistic ends, particularly with sewing and embroidery. She made wedding dresses for two of my sisters. I’ve turned my hand to a number of artistic pursuits. I did a lot of pencil drawing in my earlier years and have now moved to doing watercolors. I love going to art shows, whether it features works by professional artists or by kids. I also love to play music, on both acoustic and electric guitars. When I was about 18 to 20 I played in a band, mainly doing reggae and ska. I also enjoy composing music and writing lyrics for songs. It offers a great balance in my life, creative arts, sports, work, and nature.
Fun facts about me and my family
1. With nine kids in the house growing up, there were plenty of chaotic moments. But the beauty of big families is that the love is spread so wide, but not thin, and no one is ever excluded. Now, as I get older, I get to play the role of Uncle to 14 nieces or nephews. Being an Uncle is one of my favorite things in life.
2. I have a ton of extended family members in New England and the East Coast. My mom was originally from Springfield Massachusetts and my dad from Brooklyn, New York. That’s why my favorite sports teams are from the east, the New York Giants in football and the New York Yankees in baseball. I also follow the Boston Celtics in basketball. Because of our Catholic heritage, Notre Dame has always been my favorite college football team.
3. Although I share a lot of interests with different family members, none of them developed anything like the degree of love I have for nature, hiking, and birdwatching. When I was 12, I asked for an annual subscription to National Geographic magazine for a Christmas present, and I used to love nature programs on television.
My favorite food and dessert
I love the taste of home, and for me that’s Steubenville-style pizza. It’s usually baked in a rectangular tray and the unique aspect of it is that you add cold cheese, usually provolone and mozzarella, and cold pepperoni to the cooked crust and sauce. Other cooked fixings can be added, but that’s the basic Steubenville-style pizza that I love. I often make one myself, especially if I’m having any of my brothers round for an evening. Anyone interested in trying a Steubenville-style pizza can get it at Di Carlo’s in Westerville. It’s sometimes also called Ohio Valley-style pizza. For dessert, I love fudge brownies, hot out of the oven.
My favorite entertainment
One of my big interests is SciFi. My dad was a big reader of SciFi. He especially liked Isaac Asimov, one of the big three of Science Fiction writers, with books like “Foundation” and “I, Robot” his most famous. I read a lot too, but over the years I found that a lot of the details didn’t always sink in to my memory as well as I’d like, so I began to try Audio Books. It’s been great, although I’ve found that it’s important to feel some kind of harmony with the narrator. I’ve been listening to Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and am now deep into the trilogy of “The Lord of the Rings” books. They’re all narrated by actor Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the three Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films. Once I’ve finished “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy I want to move on to Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion,” which deals with the same created universe, Arda and Middle-earth, but is mostly set in the First Age of creation, whereas the Lord of the Rings is set in the Third Age. I liked the movies too, and also enjoyed the recent series on Amazon, “The Rings of Power,” which is set mostly in the Second Age. I really liked the recent movie, “Dune,” based on Frank Herbert’s books. When I’m not enjoying SciFi or any of my creative pursuits, one of my favorite hobbies is to go out fishing for bass. Lake Emily, here at Clear Creek, is great for fishing.
If I had just 60 seconds to share why I love working at Metro Parks, I’d say…
It’s the people I work with that makes the big difference. The fact that my work colleagues share my interests and commitment to nature and conservation is what makes working here at Metro Parks a career and not just a job.
Paul Martineau was talking to Communications Coordinator, Virginia Gordon