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Lifelong Saugus resident Ryan Duggan talks about the children’s book he authored as a guide for visitors to an area park

 

  Editor’s Note: For this week’s column, we sat down with Ryan Duggan, a lifelong Saugonian who aspires to be a park ranger or a full-time educator in the field of environmental science or natural resources. Last year Duggan, 25, authored a children’s book titled “A Day at Endicott Park,” a unique municipal park maintained by the Town of Danvers, which features lots of farm animals, woods, trails and fields that foster a family-friendly atmosphere. Duggan is a 2017 graduate of Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School in Danvers. He received an Associate Degree in Environmental Studies from North Shore Community College in 2019 and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (2019) in Natural Resources/Environmental Conservation. He is currently working on his Master’s in Environmental Education at Antioch University in Keene, N.H. He has worked for more than three years as a park ranger at Endicott Park, educating visitors about the park’s ecosystems, barn animals and recreational opportunities. His work entails maintaining park grounds and facilities, including caring for the barn animals, operating large equipment and hosting visitation hours at the Nature Center and interacting with up to 120 visitors a day.

  Ryan was raised in Saugus in the Golden Hills and Oaklandvale areas. He has a 26-year-old brother, Kyle, who graduated from Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School. As a resident in the community, Ryan has been a Park Guide at Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, a volunteer at Breakheart Reservation and a member of Saugus Action Volunteers for the Environment (SAVE) – and won the group’s $1,000 scholarship in 2017 after submitting the best environmental essay. He’s been a member of the Saugus Tree Committee and also worked as a volunteer at the Town of Saugus’ tree farm. He’s a member of the Essex County Beekeepers’ Association and served as the 2019 “Massachusetts Honey Ambassador,” teaching people about bees and beekeeping across the state. Ryan has worked part-time over the past three years at the Belmonte STEAM Academy as a math enrichment specialist and tutor.

  Last year, while working at Endicott Park, he collaborated with another park ranger on a children’s book. He wrote the book and Nicki Pszenny of Danvers did all of the illustrations. The book is about visiting Endicott Park, the things you can do, the animals and machines you will see and what rangers do every day to take care of the park and the visitors. All proceeds from the book sales go to Friends of Endicott Park, Inc., which was created in 1995 as a charitable organization with an emphasis on educating the general public about the purpose and history of Endicott Park. Its mission is to support the preservation, conservation and enhancement of this educational and historic resource.

Highlights of this week’s interview follow.

 

  Q: Please tell me how this book project evolved.

A: I’ve always wanted to do a children’s book. While talking with our team leader at Endicott Park, I mentioned that I’d love to do a children’s book about the park. Then I talked to another ranger, Nicki Pszenny, who is a Danvers resident. We made a plan: I would do the writing and Nicki would do the illustrations. We worked with the Friends of Endicott Park to get the project going. I got going on the story and Nicki got going on the illustrations. We compiled everything a publishing company would need to get the book done. We worked on it over the course of a year.

Q: When did the project begin?

A: This is something that had been talked about before. But this time, something developed from the talk. It’s something I mentioned that I wanted to be a part of. It was somewhat of a team effort.

We started the process at the end of 2022 and had the book printed and ready for sale at the end of 2023. The project was made possible by the Friends of Endicott Park – the group that supports the barn animals with food and veterinary costs and various projects around the park. The book costs $20 and all of the proceeds from the sale of the book goes to the Friends and will continue to go to the Friends. I did all of the writing and handled the publishing aspects behind the scenes, and Nicki did all of the illustrations. We had others help with giving advice and sharing their opinions. It was a team effort between the staff at Endicott Park and the Friends of Endicott Park. The park and the Friends collaborated on the project.

Q: How did it work out for you?

A: We sold 500 copies in December 2023 in the first printing. A few weeks later, we sold a couple hundred more.

It was really great to create something that showcases the park, highlights its assets and gives some people a memento to keep from their visit to the park – something that shows the care, wonder and fun that goes into the place. A lot of people who come to the park have something they can take home for their grandkids, kids and even grown-up kids – and even themselves – something that will help them remember fond memories of the place. It’s a children’s book that was written for children, but it’s really written for people of all ages.

  Q: What kind of feedback did you get from your readers? Did you hear anything interesting from them?

A: Yes, we did. We got some parents who told us that their kids ask them to read the book before they go to bed at night. We’re excited to be able to publish a book that families can relate to and talk about at home.

Q: Any other plans for future writing projects?

A: I definitely want to be writing more books in my life in a variety of environmental areas, especially books that help people connect and enjoy nature.

I’ve always loved reading and writing. My thesis for my degree at UMass Amherst was “The Book for People who want to learn more about the environment.” That book is not available yet, but hopefully gets into print.

Q: Anything else that you would like to share?

A: I think it’s really great when people can take their passions and apply it to their job, like I have. The same is true of Nicki. She always wanted to be an illustrator. She got to do illustrations and apply them to this book project involving Endicott Park.

I learned a lot from writing this book. As a model, it’s a fun kind of book that can be written for other parks.

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