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Rain and fog make for a memorable Marshmallow Hike at Rocky Ridge County Park. York Dispatch

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York County Parks Director Tammy Klunk is retiring after 37 years with the department and handing the reins over to fellow longtime employee Michael Fobes.

People used to say the park system was York County's "best kept secret," Klunk said, but with 1.3 million visitors each year, that's changing.

"We’re not a secret anymore," she said.

Klunk started at York County Parks as an intern when she was studying community recreation at York College.

The internship became a part-time job, then a full-time job in the positions of assistant program coordinator, program coordinator, resource coordinator, assistant director and, finally, director.

A lot has changed over the years.

When Klunk started, there were only six county parks. Now there are 11, including the Heritage Rail Trail, and visitors use them for everything from hiking and picnicking to mountain biking and "e-biking," or using bikes with electric propulsion motors.

The parks also provide programs for families and nature enthusiasts, including naturalist-guided hikes and educational events for families.

More: EDITORIAL: 50 years of York County Parks

Fobes, who Klunk hired 28 years ago, said one of the highlights of his career has been the opening of the Canine Meadows dog park at John C. Rudy Park, something he said was needed in the county.

"I think it’s just fascinating how our usage changes and the demands we get today versus before," Fobes said.

Some of the oddest requests for using the parks are also the most common, Klunk said.

They've received requests to host sword fights, launch rockets, fly drones and film movie scenes.

Not all requests are granted.

As director, Fobes will oversee future growth and development of the parks and their programs.

His new salary will be $77,082.

One resource he'll have at his disposal is a York County fund dedicated to buying land for open space protection, which the county began collecting this year by adopting a 0.1-mill dedicated tax hike.

The special millage will yield $1.63 million annually, which can be used to preserve woodlands, wetlands, farm land or recreational space.

In her retirement, Klunk said she plans to travel, spend time with family and enjoy the parks as a visitor instead of an administrator, but she said it will be a challenge to switch from director mode to patron mode.

"I hope to be able to turn my mind off," she said. "I'll figure it out."

More: York County proposes tax bump for open space protection

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