After Over Four Decades, Dan Stencil Retires from Oakland County Parks and Rec
(Oakland County, Feb. 19, 2021)
Pontiac, MI – During his long tenure at Oakland County Parks and Recreation (OCPR), Executive Officer Dan Stencil has created recreation experiences for millions of residents.
Now, after 43+ years, he is hanging up his proverbial hiking boots to create leisure time for him and his family. “It’s been a passion-filled career — providing parks, special events, recreation programs and services to visitors of all ages, abilities, diversity and economic backgrounds,” Stencil said.
Stencil, a long-time Clarkston resident, started with Oakland County Parks and Recreation in 1977 as an assistant park supervisor at Independence Oaks County Park. In 1981 he was promoted to General Maintenance Mechanic at Springfield Oaks County Park. In 1982, Stencil was promoted to Recreation Program Supervisor. He was promoted to Chief of Parks in 1987 and to Administrator of Parks and Recreation Operations in 1999. Stencil began his tenure as Executive Officer in 2006. Stencil is only the fourth leader of the parks system since its inception in 1966. Previous leaders were Ken VanNatta, R. Eric Reickel and Ralph Richard.
In his executive officer role, Stencil oversees the operation of 14 parks and 7,000 acres, manages an annual budget of $28 million and supervises 75 full-time and 600 seasonal staff. A History of Accomplishments One of OCPR’s latest accomplishments was the opening of Holly Oaks ORV Park in the fall of 2020. The 106-acre facility in Holly and Groveland townships is operated by the parks system and owned by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“Recreation officials have been planning that ORV park for the last 25 years. It was on my bucket list to see it open before I retired,” Stencil said. “The way people recreate has changed significantly since I started my career. People want rich outdoor experiences, and they enjoy sharing their nostalgic experiences with family. At the ORV Park, campgrounds and golf courses, we have three generations enjoying their leisure time together. I’m thrilled by the recent push to get outdoors and spend time in nature hiking, fishing and more.”
Reflecting on his career, Stencil named some highlights of his time with the parks system. These include the acquisition of additional park land for the county’s residents including Catalpa Oaks County Park in Southfield, Red Oaks Dog Park in Madison Heights and Independence Oaks-North County Park in Independence Township.
Enhancing accessibility was high on his list of achievements including construction of Paradise Peninsula, a universally-accessible playground at Waterford Oaks County Park in Waterford; accessible yurts and cabins at two campgrounds, trail access and parking lots; and increased programming and special events for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities. The parks system also assumed operations of Oakland County Farmers Market in Waterford and Red Oaks Nature Center in Madison Heights. An archery range was built at Independence Oaks County Park near Clarkston and the beach at Addison Oaks County Park was converted into a wildlife habitat.
The BMX track at Waterford Oaks County Park has been operating since 1974. Stencil recalls hosting a World Championship of BMX at the track that attracted riders from countries around the world. Another proud accomplishment was the approval of the 2010 and 2020 parks millages by more than 76 percent, a testament that Oakland County residents value the Oakland County Parks, Stencil said. Normandy Oaks, a cooperative venture between Royal Oak Township and OCPR, is set to open in spring 2021. OCPR donated more than $1 million to help fund the development of trails at the park, as well as funds for the nature area and a pedestrian bridge to connect from the Elks Park parking lot into Normandy Oaks. The property was previously a city-owned golf course. “Without the support of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners and Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission over the years who have the vision that recreation trends change and what people find important shifts, these projects would nothave been possible,” Stencil said. “And I’ve been blessed to work with the most professional and talented staff that makes these visions become reality.”
Working cooperatively with local units of government and regional partners have made unique partnerships possible, such as the Recreation Assistance Partnership Program that grants recreation visits to local communities annually. Commitment extended beyond OCPR
Stencil has also been involved with the parks and recreation profession at the local, state and national level. His professional involvement includes years of service to mParks, the Michigan Recreation and Park Association, including the role of mParks President. In 2015, he was awarded the mParks Fellowship Award, the organization’s highest honor.
In 2019, he was selected for the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration and was in the inaugural class for Certified Parks and Recreation Executives through the National Recreation and Park Association. He has also served on the Michigan Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials, the Clarkston Area Optimists Club and the National Ski Patrol.
Stencil is a graduate of Northern Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in Park Management and Recreational Planning. He earned a master’s degree in Recreation Administration from Western Illinois University. Additionally, Stencil obtained the Certified Parks and Recreation Professional and Certified Parks and Recreation Executive designations from the National Recreation and Park Association.
He is married to Susan and the father of Andrew, Bradley, Kate and Sarah. He enjoys golf, yoga, traveling and spending time with family. He has also competed nationally in the Senior Olympics.
For more information on what Oakland County Parks have to offer, visit OaklandCountyParks.com.