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.