Make a Memory

Message From The Director

I am the proud father of three outstanding young men, and I often find myself wondering where the time has gone.  This spring I had two graduations for my two youngest children.  One of my sons graduated from college and one from high school.  My oldest has been offered an opportunity to move across the globe.  As graduation approached, my wife and I recognized that we would have very few opportunities to get all three of them together again.  After years of experiences together, that seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye, we are at the point in life where we seldom get all of our kids together.  So we planned a trip.  Of course it was different than it used to be, significant others were involved, they all couldn’t be there for the entire time and we couldn’t get kids meals for them anymore.  But even with the differences there are memories from this trip that will last a lifetime for me, of all of us being together laughing, being goofy and having an awesome opportunity to be a part of their adult lives, instead of their entire life, as it was when they were younger.  The trip is over, everyone is back at work, living in different states and moving forward with their lives, but the memories remain.

As I have traveled to our state parks over the past few weeks and months reflecting on my own experience, one of the greatest joys I have had is watching people make memories for themselves.  I’ve witnessed couples at the Table Rock halfway shelter enjoying conversation and the view, visitors seeing alligators in the wild for the first time, families riding bikes around the park together and kids splashing in lakes, rivers and splash pad.  Their experiences and backgrounds were diverse.  Some were squeezing a day at the park in, and others were there for extended stays, some were avid outdoor enthusiasts while others just trying something new, but they were all trying to find ways to spend time together, to get away from the normal distractions of life and spend time connecting with each other.  Part of our job at state parks is to help you do that.

I am incredibly proud of the team I get to work with. A team of dedicated professionals who love the parks and the resources we protect, but most importantly love sharing those parks with you.  Sometimes the work they do goes unnoticed and exists simply as a wayside sharing information or a trail that has no trash on it.  Other times they are directly involved in creating a memory for visitors, through a park program or by providing great service.  But each of them hopes that the end result of your experience in a park is that you leave with a memory that you will cherish forever.  Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that the only way to make those memories are through those once and a lifetime experiences --a hike to the top of Table Rock, a sea turtle nest boiling over at the beach or a giant fish from one of our lakes. It can be easy to forget that we have so many more opportunities to help you make a memory.  We never know where or when a memory that could last a lifetime is going to happen.  It could be at the picnic where you laughed so hard you cried, or the afternoon walk around the lake where you stumbled across a baby turtle or that time you startled a fawn just off the trail and it jumps away.  Opportunities for memories are everywhere in our parks.

However, just like with most things that are worth it in life --it will cost you.  Some of the costs associated may be mundane, such as admissions, overnight accommodations or a program charge.  But the most expensive part of your experience is going to be something we all have a limited supply of --time.  I once heard it said that park rangers are paid in sunsets and sunrises.  If you have witnessed many of those you know how special those can be, but even those cost you time.  You have to be willing to put aside other things you could be doing, and spend your time on things that you want to be able to have memories of. For our recent family vacation, there was a cost.  It certainly cost money, but it also cost the use of vacation days and falling behind on tasks at home and at work.  We gave up a week of doing what we normally do, but in exchange we got a memory that will last a lifetime.  So this summer, unplug, disconnect, leave behind or abandon your daily life and come spend some time in parks.  I promise you won’t regret it.