Park Manager Rick Robertson
Park Service Profiles
An Opportunity to Build a Legacy
It was a required practicum for his major at Clemson University that led Rick Robertson to his life’s career.
The practicum landed Robertson at Table Rock State Park north of Greenville. “During the practicum, I painted, did trail work, experienced some of the park’s programs and even got to ride on the back of a garbage truck. But the resource sold me more than the work,” Robertson said.
The Walterboro native graduated from Clemson in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management and began his career at Myrtle Beach State Park as an assistant to the park manager. High school forestry courses as well as work practicums at the parks helped prepare him for the job. But, that wasn’t all.
“When I became a park ranger, if you could drive a nail in the board, you were hired,” Robertson said. “If the nail was driven in straight, you were management potential.
Rangers today are more about conservation, public relations, interpretation and educating the public on the wonderful resources we have.”
During a 23-year State Parks career that’s also included stints at Barnwell, Colleton and now Givhans Ferry, Robertson said interaction with park visitors from various walks of life is what he enjoys most. That and the wonderful experiences he’s had along the way. Perhaps his finest hour came while taking a river rescue course. “We had to perform a self rescue and I was to the point where it was either get myself into the canoe and lose my trunks or go back into the water. I chose to pull myself into the boat and in the process, I showed my butt - literally,” Robertson said.
Robertson especially enjoyed his early years at Myrtle Beach State Park.
“I was younger then and there were lots of girls, lots of sun and lots of golf,” he reflected. Today he is charged with the day-to-day operations of Givhans Ferry State Park and its staff. Hours are spent doing everything from cutting grass to public relations. “I plan projects, manage budgets, supervise and guide the park staff, conduct training, inspect facilities and do whatever I can to make our visitors enjoy their stay at Givhans Ferry,” he said.
But Robertson is especially fond of this park for another reason. His father was a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps that built it. And he said it has been an honor to take that legacy and build his own. “It’s been nice to see this park go from being a secret to a destination for so many people. How can seeing a place you love blossom not be fun?” Robertson asked.
The father of three sons whose ages range from 15 to 21, Robertson said he absolutely would encourage others to consider a career in state parks. Asked to sum up his job in a phrase Robertson smiled and said, “What an opportunity we have to build a legacy!”