Brown County State Park’s new interpretive naturalist has a love for the outdoors that stretches back to a childhood spent visiting national parks with his family.

Patrick Haulter recalled the moment hiking Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park in Utah when he realized, watching the park ranger who led the tour, that he “had to be a naturalist.”

Haulter grew up exploring Falls of the Ohio State Park, where he later spent two years as a seasonal naturalist.

He then worked for about a year in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources central office in Indianapolis before becoming the full-time interpretive naturalist at Spring Mill State Park last year.

Haulter was at Spring Mill for only about six months when the job at Brown County State Park came open due to retirement. It had been held by Jim Eagleman since 1978.

“I just knew that there was no other way — somebody was going to get in here and keep it for 30 years again, or 40 years, and I wanted to be that person,” Haulter said.

He has applied for jobs at national parks in the past, but he said Brown County was by no means a “second choice.”

“I think that, especially here at Brown County, we’re just as beautiful and just as amazing as any national park I’ve been to,” he said.

He acknowledged that being the interpretive naturalist at the state’s largest park, with more than 1 million annual visitors, will present challenges. He looks forward to them.

“It is busy, and there’s a lot going on, but I like busy,” he said.

He would like to explore more ways to engage visitors in the outdoors, such as by leading interpretive mountain biking treks, he said.

“I want to get into doing some art programs — kind of tying into the art history that we have around the area — and photography. I’d really like to get into the photography hikes,” he said.

Most of all, Haulter said he is eager to get out into the park and the community.

“I would like to just invite anyone that, it’s been awhile since they’ve been to the interpretive center, or they were great friends with Jim, or they’ve been coming to the park forever: just come in and say hello and introduce themselves to me.

“I’m excited to meet people in the community and get involved in the community and get familiar with everybody. Basically, if the door’s open here, it’s open so people can come in,” he said.

Patrick Haulter

Age: 31

From: Clarksville, Indiana

Previous position: Interpretive naturalist at Spring Mill State Park

Education: Bachelor’s degree in geoscience from Indiana University

Married to: Crystal Haulter, a graduate student at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.