Meet The Keeper Of Aggie Park
Aggie Park has become a well-loved place on campus for many Aggies. Since its grand opening in the fall of 2022, the space has become a hub for events, tailgating, fishing and relaxing.
Charles “Chuck” Klafka ‘69 takes his love for Aggie Park very seriously – in fact, it’s his job.
After a 34-year career as an FBI special agent, Klafka feels as though he has finally landed his perfect retirement job. Klafka was only retired from the FBI for 8 months when he started to feel bored and decided to re-enter the work force. After time with Texas A&M Task Force 1 and teaching crisis management at the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center, Klafka made his way back to Texas A&M. Now, he’s been back almost 12 years, and says the addition of Aggie Park has made the deal even sweeter.
“I think it’s the most beautiful facility on this campus,” he said. “I see people out here enjoying it, and it makes me feel good that I’m a part of this.”
As Assistant Director of Aggie Park, Klafka provides logistical support for all events that happen in Aggie Park. He helps maintain the park’s furniture and equipment, ensuring that everything is functioning and in the right place. He also oversees tailgating set up both in Aggie Park and on West Campus. In addition to his official duties, Klafka has taken up looking after Aggie Park’s residents.
While most Aggies are sleeping, he typically arrives to campus around 6:15 a.m. to make sure Aggie Park is clean and ready for the day. The park’s flock of eight ducks have gotten used to his early morning presence.
“They see me and they come running across the bank, quacking,” he said.
After the first two ducks arrived in Aggie Park, Klafka took it upon himself to feed them and make sure they were adapting to life in the park. Even though the eight ducks arrived at the park at different times and from different places, they have come together as one little family. “I guess they figured ‘We’re all ducks and we are gonna hang around together,’” said Klafka.
Klafka’s soft spot for the ducks has earned him a special title from his coworkers. “I’m the Duck Dad,” he said. “That’s what they nicknamed me.”
The ducks aren’t the only animals in the park that Klafka looks after. Aggie Park is also home to around 2,000 Florida largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass and red fish. The fish are fed by automatic feeders that go off twice a day, once in the early morning and once in the evening. Occasionally, Klafka will throw an extra handful of fish food into the water, which causes an excited swarm of fish to come up to the surface. He also keeps track of the fish population with their microchips. By doing so, the park can monitor how many of the original 300 microchipped fish are still in the pond.
The fishing aspect of the park is one of Klafka’s favorites since it gives current, former and future Aggies an activity to build memories around.
“I like to see the young kids out here fishing,” he said. “A lot of these kids, that’s the first time they’ve ever fished and when they catch a fish it is fun to watch.”
Klafka knows all the hidden details behind Aggie Park. For instance, the bricks surrounding one of the large trees near the bridge come from the former president’s house. There are also three small trees that are descendants of the famed Century Tree.
Every detail of the park has been intentionally crafted to bring together Aggies of all ages.
As the sun sets over Aggie Park each evening, you can find former students sitting by the pond, current students cramming for their next test, and future students catching their first fish. All while the ducks waddle along, waiting for their next visit from Klafka.
Aggie Park is managed by University Center and Special Events. Information on how to reserve the space for events can be found on UCEN’s website.