Welcome Director Paul McCormack

Message From The Director

After years in the South Carolina State Park Service, he has made it to the top! Say hello to our new State Park Director, Paul McCormack!

McCormack was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he grew up working at a scout camp. He moved to South Carolina to attend college and graduated from the Citadel with a degree in Education. He got his start with the State Park Service after meeting a park ranger working at a booth at the Palmetto Sportsmen’s Classic in Columbia. He says, “I was a new dad and loved the outdoors, camping and hiking. I never thought I could be a ranger but I applied anyway… I studied education because of my experiences teaching kids at scout camp and I thought being a park ranger was a great way to combine my love of the outdoors and my desire to share the outdoors with people, particularly kids.” He got the job and started as a ranger at what was once Sergeant Jasper State Park. From there, he worked as a ranger and assistant manager at Myrtle Beach State Park, manager at Paris Mountain State Park and, as his final job “in the field,” Sandhills Regional Chief. In March of 2018, he became Assistant State Park Director, and was promoted to State Park Director in July.

We asked McCormack what he was most excited about in his new role and thought his answer said a lot. 

“I am excited for the opportunities for change and enhancing our ability to share the parks with a growing population in South Carolina and a rapidly changing user group.  Our parks leadership team has seen massive turnover in the past year, and the responsibility of taking on this great park system, developed and improved by those that came before us, is overwhelming and exciting.  I am excited about working with this new team to add to and enhance this legacy.” 

The turnover in our leadership team is also what McCormack is most apprehensive about in his new role. He says, “Our biggest challenge will definitely be our loss of institutional knowledge as so many leaders retire.  Of our 46 uniformed managers and chiefs, 30 have been in their positions for less than a year.  They are as enthusiastic, qualified and passionate as I could ever hope to work with, but we are still trying to figure out where all the keys fit.  It is an exciting time to be here and everybody is stepping up to help, including many retirees who are still mentoring us and answering questions that come up.”

As Park Director, many people look to McCormack to be the park expert. So in that vein, we asked what he believes every park visitor should do in their lifetime. Here’s what he said:

1.       Get to know a ranger at your local park.  In the process, you will learn more about the cool things the park has to offer and get a better understanding of what they do.

2.       Go to that program.  Our staff-led tours and programs are fun and you will learn something you never knew (or at least I do, almost every time I go!).

3.       Pick your favorite park and go on a day when it is slow and nothing is going on, even if that’s a Tuesday in December.  You will see the park in a new way when you have it mostly to yourself.

4.       Start the Ultimate Outsider program. Even if you never finish visiting all 47 parks in this state, it will expose you to some great opportunities.

5.       Spend the night in a park and enjoy the park at night.  Whether you camp or stay in a cabin, sitting outside under the stars in some of our more remote parks puts everything in perspective.

We asked our new director to sum up his job in a phrase and he said, “We are fortunate to be able to work opening up special places to share with our citizens and visitors every day.  I frequently say when asked, and genuinely mean it, I am living the dream.” Welcome, Director Paul! We are excited to start this new adventure with you.

Bonus Section- Do you follow us on social media? We are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A few weeks ago, we asked our Instagram followers what they wanted to ask our new director and here are some of our favorites!

Future plans for the park system?

We have some exciting things already in progress including reopening the Dreher Island marina, new camper cabins coming at Lake Hartwell and renovations to some of our Civilian Conservation Corps cabins.  I want to continue to make the improvements planned and look for opportunities statewide to enhance visitor experiences.

What’s your favorite state park and why?

Come on now, can you really expect me to answer that?! 

How many parks have you stayed overnight in?

Great question! If I have figured it out right, I have camped or stayed in a cabin at 19 state parks.  I have visited all of them several times and am a proud Ultimate Outsider.