Marty Silver: Park ranger, classroom celebrity

Tri-Cities Original

If you grew up in the Kingsport-area, chances are you know who Marty Silver is.

For 40 years, Silver has been a ranger at Warriors’ Path State Park.

“That’s anything to do with keeping parks safe for wildlife, safe for plant life, tree life, and safe for human life,” Silver said, describing his job to News Channel 11’s Josh Smith.

And for 40 years, he’s gone from school to school to share his love of the great outdoors, introducing students to the natural world around them.

“It helps them see nature is not some remote place,” Silver said. “But it’s right here where I live in Johnson City.”

He’s now on his third generation of kids.

“I’ve had some kids say ‘my mamaw said you came to my school when I was a kid,'” Silver said.

“That means he must be old, right? The first sign of old age is, um, what were we just talking about?” he said with a laugh. “That just means I enjoy what I do and I’m going to keep on doing it.  I feel like I get paid to play for a living.”

Silver grew up on Coney Island in New York. He says from an early age he preferred the sounds of nature over the noise of the city. And that led him to Tennessee.

“Sometimes we take it for granted,” Silver said. “Dumb old Yankee doesn’t take it for granted ’cause I didn’t have it so much as a child.”

And when he shows up at a local school, it’s like a celebrity is on campus.

“Reaction is almost like a movie star is coming to school,” said Northside Elementary School Assitant Principal Tonya Neas. She says schools book Silver months in advance.

“The kids hands-down love him. Not only them, but the faculty and staff.  He’s just a household and a school name,” she said. “He just has such a passion. It radiates and overflows into all that he does.”

As for retirement plans, Silver says he doesn’t have any, even after 40 years on the job.

“Till they kick me out,” Silver said. “Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow. The Lord might call me home next week. As long as I’m able to I want to keep doing it.”

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Born and raised in the Tri-Cities, Josh Smith has been a member of the WJHL team since 1999. His family roots go deep in the region, and he’s traveled through almost every part of it covering news on local TV since 1995. When he’s not on the job, he’s with his wife, two sons, and daughter.   “They’re the best part of me,” he said.   You may run into them biking on the Tweetsie Trail, hiking around Bays Mountain Lake, or browsing the shelves at the local public libraries.

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