Making Connections

“What is your favorite state park?”

It’s the question I’m most often asked when I meet people and they learn what I do. As the years have passed, my answers have changed quite a bit.

When I was a ranger at Kings Mountain it was, “Kings Mountain!” When I was the manager at Lake Wateree it was “Lake Wateree!” When I was at Dreher Island? Dreher Island, of course! And when I was at Santee, it was by far my favorite. When I became the South Carolina State Parks Director, the answer became “I love them all!”
 
Recently I’ve changed my answer. I wish I could say it’s because wisdom comes with age, but it’s actually because visitors like you taught me a valuable lesson. We each have our favorite park or parks, not because of an outstanding feature or facility, but rather because of a connection we made there during a special moment in time.

Recently I was in the office at Poinsett State Park when a cabin guest arrived to check in. He was with his son, who had just gotten his Ultimate Outsider book stamped by Park Manager Zabo McCants. Zabo asked him how many parks he had been to, and both he and his father immediately began to tell of their many visits and memories.

“Our home park is Little Pee Dee,” said Dad. “It’s where I got hooked on state parks.”

He then told the story of when his mother and he were assisted by Park Ranger David Center in securing a boat to enjoy Lake Norton.
 
“David really made an impression on me as a kid,” he said. “Now when I take my family camping at Little Pee Dee, I always make sure I get to talk to him.”

Wow. A moment turned into three generations of state park users and supporters because of a connection to a special place. State parks are more than majestic mountains, beautiful lakes and rivers, and a coast line that will take your breath away.  They’re about connections and memories that last a lifetime.

As I hear from more of you who travel to enjoy the state parks, I’m beginning to understand this connection more than ever. A recent post on our Facebook underscored this concept of connections.

It reads: “My family has always been campers. We spend any free weekend camping at a South Carolina state park kayaking, fishing, relaxing, etc. Two and a half years ago my vision was deteriorating from an eye disease. I had to have cornea transplants in both eyes to regain my sight. After the surgery I was not able to go into bright sunlight until my transplants adjusted to my eyes. My BEST memory was the first time I was able to go camping after the surgery. We camped at my favorite park, Barnwell State Park. I ‘saw’ the color of trees for the first time in my life (didn’t see true colors before) and enjoyed the outside more on that trip than I was ever able to do in the past. We went fishing, kayaking, walked the trails, sat outside the camper and I was able to ‘see’ it all with new sight! Barnwell State Park became my favorite park that trip because it was where I truly saw so much of the outside for the first time.”

These two stories I’ve shared with you are only a sample of the memories and experiences members of the state park service are hearing.

What’s your story?

I would love to hear your connection. Feel free to email me or post it on our Facebook page. I have so many connections and great memories from my childhood visiting and camping at parks in the upstate, to my first visit to Charles Towne Landing. Oh, and I bet you’re still wondering which state park is my favorite? Oh no! We’re out of space for this month’s newsletter! So next time you see me be sure to ask! Until then…

See you in the parks!
Phil