Someone to Know: Wayne Zaininger

Wayne Zaininger, site manager of Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton and St. James Farm in Warrenville, proudly claims that he spent 98 percent of his childhood at Herrick Lake in Wheaton. So it’s no surprise that the longtime patron of the DuPage County Forest Preserves and is so proud to now work for them. He recalls spending hours at the lake fishing and running around with his family. To this day he has a disdain for eating any kind of fish after eating so much as a child. He finds joy in sharing his memories of growing up in the preserves and now watching others create their own memories.   

Tell me about your responsibilities as the site manager for Danada Equestrian Center and St. James Farm.
As the manager I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of each of these equestrian-based facilities. In order to accomplish this, I manage two staffs who specialize in various aspects of the programs offered at each preserve. So to put it simply, I do not manage the two preserves, I manage people. It is the staff that actually does the work that keeps each site running.

To date, what has been the best (or most interesting) part of your job at the Forest Preserve District?
Meeting so many volunteers (both long-term and short-term) who contribute countless hours of work to assist our staff at the Forest Preserve in its mission has been one of the best parts of my job. 

St. James Farm opened for the first time as a preserve over Memorial Day weekend in 2008. On Tuesday, the day after the weekend, St. James was the benefactor of a volunteer workday with Stratford School. For 3 1/2 hours, 110 middle school students cleared buckthorn from more than 1,000 feet of fence line along Mack Road. The buckthorn those kids cut down in 3 1/2 hours took my staff nearly three days to chip up. That would be one of the most interesting parts of my job to date. 

What makes you excited about going to work every day?
What excites me at St. James Farm has been watching the property transform from a private estate to a public preserve. This year we welcomed the 500,000th visitor since we opened in 2008. 

At Danada Equestrian Center, I get excited about working with a young staff who all have a passion for horses, and together with a dedicated team of volunteers and seasoned staff, provide an equestrian experience that exists only in a few places in all of DuPage County.

What is your favorite season in the preserves and why?
Fall would be my favorite season in our preserves. To see the fall color that is shown in many of our native prairie plants, the cool weather and to know that winter is right around the corner (which is a close second favorite. I wish it snowed on Dec. 1 and continued through the month of March with snow on the ground each day) gives me joy.

What do you like to do in your time away from work?
Take care of my horses and on a rare occasion, launch my boat on the Mississippi River.

What three words best describe you?
Energetic, persistent and dedicated.

What inspires you in nature? Why do you like to share that with others?
I got hooked on Prairie Fever back in the early 1980s when I took a course in prairie restoration at the College of DuPage. Over the past three decades, my love for this native grassland has never diminished. With a strong horticultural background, I enjoy the wonder in other people’s minds when I show them the incredible species that make up the Illinois tallgrass prairies.

Someone to Know: Dan Hebreard

District ranger loves sharing his passion for nature with visitors.

Someone to Know: Wayne Zaininger

As site manager for Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton and St. James Farm in Warrenville, Zaininger's work is centered on horses and the people who care for them.

Someone to Know: District Ecologist Dan Thompson

District ecologist has the perfect job to feed his love of nature and wildlife.

Someone to Know: Fullersburg Woods Volunteer Joan Schultheis

Retired teacher taps her love of nature at Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center.

Someone to Know: Wayne Hill

Wayne Hill gets to step back in time in his role as heritage interpreter at Kline Creek Farm, an 1890s living history farm in West Chicago.

Someone to Know: Mark Dyer

Mayslake Community Outreach Specialist Mark Dyer wears many hats while helping ensure the numerous nature and cultural programs run smoothly at the Oak Brook estate.

Someone to Know: Austin Kopp

Golf Services Supervisor Austin Kopp makes sure every trip to the District's three golf course is on par with customer's expectations.

Someone to Know: Leigh Korreck

Willowbrook naturalist Leigh Korreck loves being able to connect people to nature and help them learn how to live in harmony with native wildlife in DuPage County.

Someone to Know: Dennis Buck

How would you like stepping back into a different century every day at work? That's what Kline Creek Farm heritage interpreter Dennis Buck does each day.

Someone to Know: Kim Riehm

From taking calls to reserving a picnic shelter to answering questions about forest preserves, no two days are alike for Visitors Services staff assistant Kim Riehm. And she wouldn't have it any other way.

Someone to Know: Cindy Hedges

Cindy Hedges is all about connecting people to nature in her role as stewardship program coordinator. She also oversees the District's volunteer monitoring programs and the Native Plant Nursery at Blackwell Forest Preserve.

Someone to Know: Kendra Strubhart

As Mayslake's heritage interpreter, Kendra Strubhart is responsible for programming at the historic Oak Brook mansion.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Chris Aquino

When he's not teaching cinema studies at Wheaton Warrenville South High School, he's helping folks hone their photography skills at Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Fred Drury

Award-winning photographer Fred Drury brings his 50-plus years of photography expertise to you through his photography classes at Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Hank Erdmann

Hank Erdmann specializes in nature photography, especially in the midwest. His primary areas of interest include midwestern prairies and hardwood forests.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Will Clay

Will Clay's photography has been published in nine books and numerous natioanl publications, and now he brings his photographic expertise to you through his photography classes at Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Someone to Know: Eric Poggenburg

No two days are alike for ranger Eric Poggenburg, who enjoys connecting to nature even on his days off.

Someone to Know: Dr. Jennifer Nevis

Willowbrook staff veterinarian fuels her passion for animals and mentoring.

Someone to Know: Nikki Dahlin

District naturalist Nikki Dahlin's love of bugs may have started by accident, but it's been fueled by passion.

Someone to Know: David Sima

Senior ranger David Sima leads programs that teach skills for enjoying the great outdoors.

Someone to Know: Stephanie Touzalin

Wildlife enthusiast and artist Stephanie Touzalin is a naturalist at Willowbrook.

Someone to Know: Ron Skleney

Naturalist Ron Skleney loves birds and heads up our raptor program at Willowbrook Wildlife Center.

Someone to Know: Natural Resources and Grounds Management Crews

Our crews manage invasive and nonnative vegetation over the coldest months of the year.

Someone to Know: Chris Gingrich

Get to know Education Outreach Specialist Chris Gingrich.

Someone to Know: Marty Jandura

Ranger Marty Jandura is an avid fisherman and offers up some fishing tips.

Someone to Know

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