Roaring River State Park has always been a big part of my life. As a youngster, I remember spending time lounging in the water near Dry Hollow, playing on the old wooden playground in the picnic area and fishing near the falls with my grandmother. As a teenager and young adult, I often enjoyed driving down to the park to walk around the spring pool and raceways to feed the young trout.
After meeting my husband, Roaring River became an even larger part of my life. As an avid fisherman, James was not satisfied until I was an experienced trout angler, and living only a few minutes from the park, we have taken many opportunities to enjoy the peacefulness of Roaring River through camping trips with friends and by hiking some of the park's many trails.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the Roaring River Hatchery, which has been responsible for making the park what it is today. Over the last few weeks, I have learned a great deal about the man who was responsible for bringing the first trout to Roaring River in the early 1900s. Roland Bruner was an amazing man with an amazing vision. I wonder if he would be impressed by all the accomplishments that have been made at Roaring River since he was forced to leave the land in 1928.
Although Bruner was responsible for bringing the first trout to Roaring River and developing the first vision for the park, many of the hatchery managers and park superintendents who have worked at Roaring River over the last 72 years can also take credit for the success of the park. One hatchery manager who has done his fair share to encourage generations of anglers to return to the park year after year will retire in April.
Jerry Dean, current hatchery manager, is one of the most kind, knowledgeable, humble men I have ever met. I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to work with him while covering projects, improvements and events at Roaring River over the last five years. Jerry never takes credit for the hard work that he puts in at Roaring River, and he is quick to acknowledge the contributions of his hatchery staff and other park crew members.
In recent years, Roaring River's Kids Fishing Days, which are held each May and August, have grown to become some of the park's largest events. Even though the entire park staff chips in to make these events successful, it is Jerry who organizes the youth fishing days. Under his leadership, Kids Fishing Day has grown from a free fishing opportunity that was offered at the first hole near the Roaring River Hatchery to a full day of free outdoor education for any child interested in participating. Last year, each Kids Fishing Day event drew over 1,400 youngsters to the park.
Many park visitors who take part in events like Kids Fishing Day or just choose to spend a weekend at Roaring River may only enter local businesses to purchase groceries or a few fishing lures, but each of those dollars benefit our community. In addition to fueling a thriving tourist season each summer, Roaring River brings many new residents and business owners to our community each year. I can recall countless instances when new community members have told me that the park is at least part of the reason they decided to settle in Barry County.
As local community members celebrate Opening Day of the 2010 trout fishing season next Monday, I hope that they will take a few moments to recognize the contributions that have been made by countless men and women who have worked at Roaring River over the last 100 years. Many of them are like Jerry and will shrug off the compliments, but I believe it is important for them to know that their hard work is appreciated by the community that gains so much from Roaring River.