Guest Message- Daniel Gambrell

Message From The Director

This month I am excited to introduce to you our Chief of Park Operations.  Daniel Gambrell is a park service veteran who has worked at many of our busiest parks and now oversees statewide operations from the central office in Columbia. Enjoy.


Growing up in Easley, South Carolina, my family and I frequently took camping trips to Table Rock and Lake Hartwell state parks.  I remember seeing and talking to the park rangers, catching tiny fish, participating in programs at the recreation building, attending 4th of July festivities and enjoying ice cream from the camp store. Little did I know, a passion for South Carolina State Parks was brewing inside of me long before I even received my first paycheck. Looking back, I am reminded of the role park visits played in my journey to become a ranger. Although the drive to these parks were only a short trip from our house, they created memories that lasted a lifetime.

Taking those trips growing up shaped my life in ways I would have never imagined.  After high school, I decided to attend Clemson University where I majored in, you guessed it, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management with a minor in Forestry!  Like many college students, I was desperate to find a summer job between semesters, so I went straight to Devils Fork State Park to see if any positions were available. I was willing to do anything. After meeting with the Park Manager, he asked if I would be interested in becoming an assistant ranger.  I could not believe what I was hearing!  Me, a park ranger? In my mind, I was already wearing the “hat” and rescuing injured hikers on the trail.  To my surprise, I found that the assistant ranger actually works in the park store, cleans restrooms and picks up trash. Lucky for me, I was also able to receive college internship credit for my job at Devils Fork.  After that, I was hooked and I knew that after graduating, I was going to be a park ranger.

By working at Devils Fork for two summers, I already had my foot in the door.  Following graduation, I applied for an assistant ranger position at Edisto Beach State Park and made the “big move” from the upstate to the coast.  While I really enjoyed working at the beach, that experience was short lived.  Around four months later, I was offered a Ranger I position at Dreher Island State Park.  That was the second move of many moves to come.  Over the next several years, I would end up moving four more times while working in multiple positions at both Dreher Island and Santee state parks.  Eventually, I went on to serve as Park Manager at Sesquicentennial and Hunting Island state parks. (Fun fact: my daughter was born only three weeks prior to my wife and I moving to Hunting Island.)  We spent a total of five years at Hunting Island and had some not so great experiences, like hurricanes Matthew and Irma, but overall we have many positive memories that made our time there special.

After my time at Hunting Island State Park, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to become the Chief of Park Operations in the central office in Columbia – a position I have held for the past two years.  The main purpose of Park Operations is to support the field in any way possible. Similar to ranger fieldwork, in this position you never know what will arise on a daily basis.  This job has always been interesting and exciting, and I have really enjoyed being able to assist all 47 South Carolina State Parks with their operations.

It is very cool after 20 years with the park service, to think back to where it all began.  That little kid looking for spiders in his tent with a flashlight has now worked two decades, growing from an Assistant Park Ranger to Chief of Park Operations.  I have seen and experienced many changes through the years with the state park service and I look forward to many more.