The Legacy of Phil Gaines
Message From The Director
“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Theodore Roosevelt
South Carolina’s long-serving State Parks Director, Phil Gaines, retired in early August after 37 years of being a dedicated park ranger. His entire life was committed to working hard, to making sure you had an opportunity to discover the natural and cultural heritage of South Carolina that can be found in its 47 state parks. Even if it took late nights and lengthy meetings, working weekends and holidays, tight budgets and limited resources, Gaines was determined to be the park ranger who embraced the CCC’s values of stewardship and service for your enjoyment.
His career is marked by a quick rise to executive leadership after he started as a junior park ranger at Kings Mountain State Park in 1982. From there he held management positions at several parks, including Lake Wateree, Dreher Island and Santee – before coming to the central office in Columbia.
His legacy is marked by sweeping changes in state parks that helped improve your experience. Phil was part of a team of people who transformed parks into distinguished destinations, hiring more naturalists, historians and archaeologists who would provide intriguing details about the waterfalls you discovered in deep forests, the tracks left by nesting loggerhead sea turtles on the beach, or the buttons, pipes and pottery shards found in excavations at historic sites.
He brought business people on board so that parks could find innovative and creative ways to sustain themselves and keep the gates open.
He inspired a workforce of hundreds to make sure customer service was a priority.
His leadership skills also were taken to the national level where, as an instructor in a leadership school, he had a hand in developing the next generation of outstanding park leaders.
At SCPRT, we will miss Phil’s example, his passion and commitment, although we’ll see him often on a few special projects. He’s leaving behind a Park Service that’s in far better shape than how he found it, and an enterprise of work worth doing.
Director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism