Taking notice: State parks projects and the staff who bring them to life

What do you remember after you visit a state park? Most people say they recall the peace of nature, seeing a cool plant or animal, or interacting with a park ranger. We ALL know park rangers immediately, with their big hats and all the cool things they know about the park. You often hear kids say they want to be a park ranger when they grow up, and I can definitely see why. But, we’re all missing something. We’re missing a group of people—nearly as many serving our state parks as we have rangers– who do a tremendous amount every day to care for our state parks behind the scenes–and right in front of your nose. I’m talking about our maintenance staff!

Our maintenance staff’s work is SO much more nuanced what their name implies, and it’s time we acknowledge their valuable role in our parks.

Recently, I asked our maintenance staff to start sending me photos and info about their daily work. After some groans (they are quite busy enough, thank you very much), I started receiving messages from several staff members across the state.

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area

Craig Autry, a maintenance and construction supervisor at Jordan Lake, shared with me some major Fourth of July challenges for our maintenance staff.  Check out the trash they collected after the holiday weekend last year!



Lake Norman State Park

This Little Free Library built and installed by Maintenance and Construction Technician Greg Johnson at Lake Norman State Park was built from repurposed wood from a 100-year-old-barn that once stood on park property.


This conference table, built by Maintenance and Construction Technician Greg Johnson at Lake Norman State Park, was repurposed from the park’s original entrance sign. The sign was originally carved at Mount Mitchell and installed at Lake Norman in 1963.



Fort Macon State Park

Larry, a maintenance and construction technician down east at Fort Macon, ends up fixing a lot of automatic sinks. Below, you can see the inner workings of the sink’s automatic function, which requires fresh batteries regularly.  This time, Larry found that the small electric solenoid that turns the water on and off needed to be cleaned before it would function again.



Stone Mountain State Park

In the mountain region, Trails Maintenance Manager Jody Reavis has been hard at work leading the construction on new sections of  Stone Mountain trails. Here, a new section of horse trail was carved out near Widows Creek Falls and the main entrance. This section will be part of the Mountains to Sea State Trail. First the dynamite, and then the cleanup:




When many people think of North Carolina’s “Naturally Wonderful” state parks, they think of massive forests, expansive lakes, primitive camping, or pristine beach walking. Our natural resources are certainly part of what makes our parks special. But it’s also the things that differentiate state parks from unmanaged wilderness– bathrooms, trash cans, shower houses, docks, piers, trails, campsites, swim areas– that bring you to your state parks for a safe, comfortable adventure with modern conveniences and easy access to beautiful places. The fact is, all of these things are maintained, improved, repaired, restored and often constructed by our parks’ maintenance staff.

From fixing mowers and sinks to landscaping, trail construction and maintenance, and waste management, our maintenance staff members are truly jack and jills-of-all-trades. Visitors to the parks often mistake them for park rangers because of their similar uniforms, but many leave without ever knowing how important these crews really are to the parks. We want to do a better job conveying the hard work that our maintenance staff do so that we all can give them more credit for their extensive skills, pride in their work, and the critical role the have in our parks. Please keep an eye on our blog and social media accounts for more updates about the work of our maintenance staff.

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