Dave Palmquist, a naturalist at Whitewater State Park for 38 years, is retiring.
Palmquist has taken school kids and families on nature hikes, helped them plant trees and make maple syrup, and generally imparted his enthusiasm for nature to more than 400,000 visitors over the years.
One of his chief satisfactions is seeing the return of peregrine falcons. They had nested in the park's bluffs in 1962 — one of the last nests in the eastern U.S. before they were devastated by DDT and other chemicals.
"The park had gone 47 years without peregrine falcons nesting, so you can well imagine our excitement when a visitor reported that there was a pair flying around a cliff and landing in a cave in April of 2009," he said.
Palmquist said one of his most satisfying projects has been rescuing Blanding's turtles. In the spring, he leads groups of kids and families as they help females travel across a county road to lay their eggs. And in the fall, they carry young turtles back across the road.
"They get to release the turtles too," he said. "This often is a first conservation experience for them, and hopefully it sows some seeds that lead them to want to be involved in efforts that help the environment in other ways as well."
Palmquist said the turtles can live 70 years, so saving one adult can make a big difference in the overall population.
Palmquist's last day as interpreter at Whitewater State Park is Tuesday.