An amazing legacy in the areas of outdoor education and law enforcement are what a former longtime JCPRD employee recently left behind.
Former Superintendent of Safety, Heritage, and Outdoor Education (SHOE) Dan Field passed away unexpectedly of natural causes on Sept. 3, which was less than three weeks short of a year since he retired from the agency after 37 years of service on Sept. 21, 2018.
Talk with those who knew and worked with Field, and there’s no doubt he will be missed and long remembered.
“I will forever cherish my time with Dan,” said former JCPRD Executive Director Jill Geller. “While a tough law enforcement officer on the exterior, he was the gentlest of men. JCPRD was blessed to have Dan Field in our midst for 37 years. I will most remember Dan’s huge heart and his undying commitment to public service. He was passionate about his work and he truly loved JCPRD.”
“Dan was a kind soul who cared deeply for the services JCPRD provides and the millions that enjoy them each year,” added current Executive Director Jeff Stewart. “He had great trust and respect for his staff. Unfortunately I only had an opportunity to work with Dan for a few years. Everyone knows that Dan loved the educational/interpretive programs that he and the park police staff developed and led.”
Field was superintendent of the SHOE Division from December 2006 until he retired. He had previously served as a captain since July 1993. He started with JCPRD in July 1981 and during his time here served as a ranger I & II, community education coordinator, sergeant, patrol commander, investigations commander, and operations commander. Field held a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri - Kansas City.
“Dan’s leadership of JCPRD’s Park Police force and the Outdoor Education Department was outstanding,” Former Director Geller said. “His work made a difference to Johnson County and its residents. “
“I remember the love Dan had for the art of interpretation,” added Senior Park Naturalist Molly Postlewait. “He was passionate about being historically accurate. His presentations were entertaining and thought provoking. Dan was a stickler for details and was willing go the extra mile to make sure the audience did not forget the experience. We have some very unique programs due in part of Dan’s encouragement for creative ideas to be explored and are given life. One of his biggest accomplishments was the partnering of park police with interpretative programs. It is very unusual in the field of law enforcement to present programming to all ages in costume and using live animals.”
“Dan’s legacy in outdoor education is the programs he created that will live on through the staff he mentored,” said Outdoor Education Manager Bill McGowan, who helped in hiring Field. “Dan led by example encouraging and mentoring park police to embrace and succeed in integrating outdoor education programs and law enforcement. Dan also was an outstanding writer, he authored several stories, exhibits, and contributed numerous articles for the nature center’s newsletter.”
One aspect of Field’s work with which he is especially associated with is his portray of Jacques the French fur trader, a character he created as part of the Heritage History Lab program he helped develop and present beginning in 1982. This interpretive program is a fieldtrip for area fourth and fifth graders, which gives participants a snapshot of early Kansas history through living history presentations.
At the time of his retirement, Field cited the program as his greatest accomplishment with JCPRD, and estimated he had portrayed Jacques more than 4,200 times over 36 years. As of 2018, 130,900 people had attended the Heritage History Lab program.
“Dan relentlessly strived to provide the highest quality interpretive programming possible by constantly challenging himself and others to utilize new interpretive techniques and to create memorable experiences for audiences,” McGowan added. “Dan strived to provide the public with outstanding services whether it was Law Enforcement or programming.”
In testimony of his love for interpretation, McGowan noted that Field was rehired on a part time basis earlier this year to help present several programs, including the Ecology Encounters school fieldtrip, and the park’s first amphitheater program of the summer - Stories Under the Stars.
Field is survived by his wife, Paulette, who is also a former JCPRD employee.