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KY Afield Outdoors: Conservation Officers to be honored

By Dave Baker
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife

Frankfort, KY - Two conservation officers, widely regarded for their involvement with local communities, passion for introducing kids to the outdoors and commitment to protecting Kentucky's wildlife resources, will have a new tract of land at Big Rivers Wildlife Management Area and State Forest named in their honor.

The service of Capt. David "Donan" Jenkins and Conservation Officer Ronnie Rich, both of whom are now deceased, will be recognized during a ceremony scheduled for 10amCT on October 13 in Crittenden County.

Those wishing to attend the ceremony should head south on KY 365 out of Sturgis, Ky., then turn right onto Bell's Mine Road and follow the signs to the parking area and dedication site.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources recently acquired 840 acres of property in Crittenden County adjacent to the existing Big Rivers Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and State Forest. The new property brings the total size of Big Rivers to 7,542 acres.

This year, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has acquired more than 7,500 acres of new property for public hunting and other outdoor activities.

The new tract at Big Rivers is composed primarily of mature hardwood forest. It will provide opportunities for big game hunting, small game hunting, hiking and bird watching. The ceremony will designate this new property as the Jenkins-Rich Tract.

Jenkins earned Officer of the Year accolades in 1964 and 1965. Altogether, he served with the department for 39 years before retiring as a law enforcement captain in 1997.

While Jenkins gained a reputation for his toughness - he won novice boxing championships while serving in the U.S. Army - he had a soft spot for kids. He and his wife, Georgia "Jo" Jenkins, developed a technique for cultivating the highly-prized ginseng plant. The couple took proceeds from their ginseng sales to help fund partial college scholarships for kids of department employees and students at Crittenden and Union county high schools. "There are givers and takers," Jenkins explained at the time, "and I'm a giver."

Rich began his 25-year career at Kentucky Fish and Wildlife in 1979 as a wildlife technician at the Sauerheber Unit of Sloughs Wildlife Management Area near Henderson. After three years, he switched to the department's Law Enforcement Division to become a conservation officer.

Jenkins took Rich under his wing. Jenkins saw Rich's passion for the outdoors, and served as the new officer's mentor for many years. Rich grew into a strong leader yet remained humble and never stopped trying to qualify for the position. A compassionate husband and exemplary father, he led by example and believed in seeking the truth.

Rich, jokingly nicknamed "The Godfather" by others for his field knowledge, constantly taught others about his craft. He strongly believed that respect was earned, not given. Over his career, Rich earned his respect by winning several awards, including the 1987 Kentucky Officer of the Year; 1998-99 Waterfowl Enforcement Officer of the Year; and 1999 United Bowhunters of Kentucky Officer of the Year.

Rich's service to the public did not end with his retirement in 2004. He used his knowledge and spare time to help out underprivileged kids and injured veterans.

He partnered with local youth conservation groups and the Wounded Warrior Project to create memorable hunting and fishing experiences at Wild Wing Lodge and Riverbend Whitetail Outfitters for those in need of his assistance.

Jenkins and Rich spent their careers focused on helping others. It's fitting that one of Kentucky's newest pieces of property for the public's enjoyment bears their names.

This story was posted on 2016-10-06 15:06:15
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