DANVERS — Endicott Park Rangers Dave and Joan Townley have been stewards of the 165-acre park for more than 40 years.
When they retire Jan. 1, they will leave “big shoes to fill,” said Town Manager Wayne Marquis.
The Townleys have not only made the park their home, living in the six-room, upstairs apartment in the carriage house visitor center, they have made the 165-acre park into a place where young people can learn about nature.
“The park is a gift to the townspeople, a gift to the community,” said Chief Ranger Dave Townley, “and we are hoping that they will keep on giving in the future.”
Endicott Park attracts nearly 160,000 visitors a year, who can take long walks down the trails, bring children to the playground, go snowshoeing and sledding, or pet the animals in the barn. There are community garden plots and monthly nature programs.
For more than four decades, the Townleys have been live-in stewards of the park on Forest Street, watching over the animals in the barn, including a 30-year-old pony named Jake, and maintaining and caring for the grounds and buildings, which include the carriage house and a large hay barn.
They raised their three children at the park. Adults now, their son Jason lives in Montana, daughter Karen in Rowley, and daughter Kathy in Berlin, N.H. The kids also did plenty of chores growing up.
As the Townleys prepare to move to Conway, N.H., where they have had a home for 10 years, the Danvers Kiwanis Club plans to award them a lifetime achievement award on Jan. 28 at the Danversport Yacht Club. Proceeds from the event will endow a scholarship for a Danvers student pursuing a college degree in park management. (The $40 per person tickets to the dinner can be bought at the Recreation Department in Town Hall, 1 Sylvan St., or at Harnett’s Auto Body, 15 Water St.)