7 Questions with… Patrick LinihanDirector Genesee County Parks


Beginning this month, Patrick Linihan has assumed the role as Director of Genesee County Parks. Formerly deputy director since October 2022, Linihan served as director of parks and recreation for Grand Blanc Township for two years, as well as several other key roles for the County parks. The Parks & Recreation Commission considered ten other applicants for the director position, citing Linihan’s extensive background with a variety of park systems. His appointment was approved at their meeting in late February 2024.

Linihan earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation, parks and leisure services from Central Michigan University. Before working in Genesee County, he was a senior park ranger for the City of Portage and Isabella County.

Employing nearly 500 people both full-time and seasonal, the County Parks system covers more than 11,000 acres of woods, rivers, lakes, trails, beaches and campgrounds. It maintains and operates several day-use County parks, the Wolverine Campground, Crossroads Village, The Mounds ORV Park, and For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum.

As he settles into his role at the helm of Michigan’s largest county parks system, Linihan agreed to take a few moments to tell us a little more about himself.

1. When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?

Like many kids, I had those classic dreams of becoming a police officer, firefighter, or even an astronaut – you know, the usual suspects in the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” game. But as time went on, the idea of becoming a teacher took root in my mind, and I genuinely believed it was my path, navigating life’s twists and turns.

Surprisingly, life had different plans for me. The teaching path I envisioned didn’t materialize. Instead, I found myself on an unexpected, winding road. My involvement in commercial recreation and parks dates back to when I was 15, but it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I had that pivotal “light bulb” moment, realizing that this wasn’t just a job but a genuine career path. And you know what? I’m absolutely loving every twist and turn of it.

2. What’s something people would never guess about you?

My career journey has been quite unconventional! During my undergraduate years at Central Michigan University – “Fire Up Chips!” – where I pursued a bachelor’s degree in recreation, parks and leisure services, I embarked on a crucial 30-week internship right here at Genesee County Parks. Life has a funny way of coming full circle, and I’ve worn almost every hat imaginable within our parks system, gaining a deep understanding of the ins and outs of the field.

3. What do you enjoy most about your career?

The absolute highlight of my career is the incredible people I work with and the positive impact we have on the community. It’s not every day that you find a job in which you can witness the tangible difference you make in people’s lives on a daily basis. Offering safe and welcoming gathering spaces where they can create lasting memories, build friendships, acquire new skills or simply maintain a healthy lifestyle – there aren’t many professions that offer such a fulfilling sense of purpose.


“Offering safe and welcoming gathering spaces where they can create lasting memories, build friendships, acquire new skills or simply maintain a healthy lifestyle – there aren’t many professions that offer such a fulfilling sense of purpose.”


A thriving parks and recreation department is like a secret ingredient to a successful community, often underestimated. Our work contributes to the economic vitality of the residents and the community as a whole, becoming a deciding factor for families or businesses when choosing a place to live or establish themselves. The Genesee County Parks vision statement perfectly encapsulates it: “Parks bring people together.” And that, for me, is the heart of what makes my career so rewarding.

4. At a party, where can someone find you?

I love soaking up good vibes and relishing the company of awesome people. You’ll often find me at the heart of the action, enjoying games and activities that bring everyone together. Honestly, the food table is irresistible to me – a good party is about the perfect mix of great people, fun activities and delicious treats.

5. What’s a movie you can practically quote from start to finish?

I had to give this one quite a bit of thought because there are a lot of movies I could quote! While I can’t pick just one, I would have to say it is a tie between “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “The Blues Brothers.”

6. How would your friends describe you?

My friends would most likely label me as adventurous. I have an ongoing urge to travel, always excited about exploring new places and fully immersing myself in the local vibes. Whether it’s discovering the unique flavors of a region, delving into its culture, or venturing out to explore parks and preserves, the thrill of exploration significantly influences my choice of destinations. It’s the unexpected journeys and the joy of discovery that continuously fuel my sense of adventure.

7. What are you most excited about right now?

I’m truly excited about the opportunity to shape the future of our parks and community, serving as a catalyst for positive change. The enthusiasm is contagious, especially with our dynamic team on board, brimming with fresh and innovative ideas that I’m eager to see come to life. There’s an energy, and I can’t wait to harness that collective creativity to achieve remarkable things together.

A particularly exciting project is the Flint River Restoration Project, a game-changer as we strive to revitalize the Flint River through Downtown Flint. The removal of the Hamilton Dam is a pivotal step, opening up fish passage further up the river and its tributaries. Beyond ecological improvements, this project aims to enhance the overall experience for our community.

Furthermore, the ongoing restoration of Riverbank Park, a part of the new State Park initiative, is exciting! The vision is grand, and I’m genuinely thrilled about the positive impact these initiatives will have on our community. I’m fully committed to the journey ahead as we work toward making our parks and community even more vibrant and engaging.  


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