The Busy Season
Message From The Director
When I started my career almost 30 years ago, Labor Day marked the end of the busy season. Parks went from busy all week to just busy on the weekends. The start of school meant park staffs shrunk as employees returned to classes, full time employees got to take some time off and we began to plan for winter work projects. It was a cycle I was taught based on the years of experience from those that came before. During my career that slowly changed, with the busy season slowly stretching in both directions. It started to reach back to spring break and Easter and forward into fall and Halloween. Eventually, and particularly over the past few years, those two stretches met and the slow season, as it used to be defined, completely disappeared. While the summer months are still our busiest time, the slower winter months now rival summer months from years ago at some of our parks.
Parks have had to adapt to this change in many ways. From staffing and scheduling to hours of operations and gate management, many decisions have been made through the years to make accessing our parks easier for our visitors. During that time, we have also tried to make running them easier on our team. Online reservations, campground and maintenance hosts, increased seasonal budgets, contracting services and so many other things that would never have been done 30 years ago, are now common. These changes both improve our visitor experience and provide our staff with more time to manage sites. One of the changes that would shock a ranger from the 90’s is the way we do projects.
When I started and were planning projects for our parks, on-site projects were referred to as winter work projects. They were typically scheduled for November through April for two reasons: first to minimize the impact to guests and second to give the staff something to work on during slower months. As our visitation has grown, neither of these justifications remain true. Our visitation has become more consistent throughout the year and our staff was no longer needing more to do in the winter, so we started doing projects year-round. Perhaps you have noticed some of the work going on this summer!!
As I have traveled this summer, I have seen some of the great projects getting done and heard about so many more. After years of planning, we paved Hunting Island State Park and as I write this we are repaving the causeway road at Huntington Beach State Park. We would never have considered doing this in the summer before, but with pressure on parks and insecurity about being able to get it done in the “off-season”, we went ahead and moved forward with these projects. We are finishing construction on camper cabins at Lake Hartwell and Chester, remodeling a bathhouse at Huntington Beach and renovating a campground at Dreher Island State Park. Well drilling at Kings Mountain, cabin renovations at Barnwell, dam work at Croft and so many more projects are going on at a time of year that would have been considered taboo years ago.
The Park Service is excited about all of the improvements underway and coming. Having opportunities to make our state parks better for future generations is one of the things that drives many of us. As we plan for our future, seldom does the season impact our project planning anymore. We are instead focused on what projects can help protect and enhance the experience of our guests as we try keep South Carolina State Parks some of the best in the nation. I hope you enjoy the improvements our Parks teams have worked so hard to make happen.