Monday, March 9, 2009

The Park Office: Keowee-Toxaway State Park, SC

Click here for the first post in this series.

I visited the Park office Monday morning as soon as possible. With only three full-time personnel to maintain this whole facility, the office is open only two hours a day: from eleven to noon; and from four to five. Don’t worry, though. Should you need them, the Rangers are somewhere in the Park ready to help. Only a phone-call away.

You might mistake this building for a church, were it not for the sign. In fact, the building was a church: the Holly Springs Baptist Church. It served its congregation at the intersection of Highway Eleven and Route 178 from 1890 until the early 1970s. Then it was transferred to Park ownership, and moved to its present site. Only the Congregation’s cemetery remains at the original location.

The building was completely renovated last year, and the Park offices moved into it from across the road. Still today, though, inside and out, the clerical origins of the building are unmistakable. Beyond its general shape, the only feature of the original building visible from the inside is its hand-hewn pine ceiling. Newly painted a glossy white. I asked one of the Rangers what he thought of when looking at the hand-hewn ceiling. He replied, “A lot of work!”

Most of the original sanctuary area has been beautifully finished floor to ceiling to host the Jocassee Gorges Visitor’s Center.

That Center is scheduled for completion this summer. The South Carolina Park Service has designed it to serve as the primary information source for this beautiful conservation area. Exhibits will include an elaborate topographical map, detailed descriptions of the region’s natural diversity, explanations of scientific research on the area, and the histories of past populations. It should be an impressive facility when completed. The Park even hopes to recruit one or more Interns to work with the exhibit. For now, though, we must make do with drawings and plans.

So, when you visit Keowee-Toxaway State Natural Area, be sure to include some time in your schedule to visit the Park Office and this Jocassee Gorges Project exhibit. Take a moment to introduce yourself to the Rangers, Kevin and Ray. Both of them were born and raised in this part of the country. They’re full of information about interesting things to see and do here. Of course, many of you won’t be able to visit this Park. So next time through, I’ll try to remember to take some more photos of the finished exhibit to post on this blog.

Click here for the next post in this series.

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