Guest Message- Ashley Berry
Message From The Director
As I mentioned last month, I want to take the time this year to introduce some of the members of the central office team that helps to run our park service. None of our downtown staff wear a uniform, but they are all park rangers who advocate to make great things happen in parks. Some like Ashley Berry, who tells his story below, come from the field. Still others may not have worked in the field but they are passionate about South Carolina state parks. I hope you enjoy this peek into our central office!
As I press the rewind button back to 1994, all kinds of thoughts run through my mind. All of the fun, challenges, accomplishments, disappointments and most of all, the people. Over the years, I was nicknamed “Dundee” because I wrestled an alligator at Edisto Beach, twice; “Beetlejuice” by a staff member at Hickory Knob because she saw a resemblance; “OC” after I was accidentally sprayed by OC spray by a deputy sheriff while trying to pull an ATV out of the surf at Hunting Island and several others I know of and countless others, I’m sure, that I am unaware of! Oh, the fun of being a park ranger! Working on a park and managing the property is exciting, but interacting with the visitors, that’s fulfilling!
Ok, back to the subject- in 1994 I started out as a volunteer at Lake Greenwood State Park. My first day on the job I was handed a backpack blower and instructed to blow the roads- all of them. When I got home at the end of the day my dad asked, “How was it?” My response, as the blower fumes were still tickling my sense of smell, the perspiration still soaking my clothing, my feet, legs and back all sore from walking what felt like 100 miles toting a 250-pound blower, “It was awesome!” After all, I had spent the entire day in a park, seeing every inch of the park and had the opportunity to experience what being a park ranger was all about: taking care of a park. Yep, I was hooked!
Now to fast forward, which isn’t nearly as entertaining as rewinding, to 2019 where I serve as the Chief of Budget and Revenue. After spending time working in 12 different roles in parks, from volunteer to Park Manager, I ask myself the same question I am often asked- what do you do and why do you do it? Simply put, I manage the budget for the 47 South Carolina state parks and the South Carolina State House Tour Office and Gift Shop (my 48th state park). My major responsibility is to oversee expenses, ensure we are making the most out of every penny and doing the right thing to protect our invaluable resources while also providing recreational and educational opportunities for our visitors. It is a balancing act that our team has perfected and I am proud to be a part of it. A portion of this responsibility in my role includes looking into the future and seeing the major projects we need to fund to ensure safety and protect parks, as well as places we can add amenities to increase revenue, which then allows us to do even more projects and further safeguard these treasures for future generations. On the flip side, I constantly examine incoming revenues, comparing parks to each other, monitoring trends and identifying ways to maximize our revenues to, once again, constantly improve our parks. All this because, as I have been known to say frequently, every penny you spend at parks gets spent helping to improve parks.
As the Chief of Budget and Revenue, I no longer get to wear the hat and badge that I once so proudly donned, but I get something equally as satisfying in return. While wearing that uniform and having an impact at the park I called home was great, I now wear something even greater- the smile of satisfaction from seeing the impact at all of our great South Carolina state parks. I always thank visitors for the smiles I get in return when I do get out to visit a park. And to answer the question I posed to myself earlier- you are the reason I do this. Because I want your experience in a South Carolina state park to be absolutely wonderful. Thanks for making my career fulfilling!