Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Little Pee Dee State Park, S.C. Part VI Interview With Park Manager Geoff Akins

Another beautiful day here at Little Pee Dee State Park in Dillon County, South Carolina. Sunny, with only a slight breeze. So, another good day to wet a paddle on Lake Norton. First, though, an appointment at 10:00 a.m. to interview Park Manager, Geoff Akins.

park sign I arrived at the Park Office just before 10:00 a.m. to find Mr. Akins with one hand on the telephone and the other on the computer, taking camping reservations. The photo above is of the sign beside the Office that you may be able to read in expanded form. All State parks I’ve visited have similar signs. Be sure to take time to look them over. They usually provide useful information.

akins 1 Mr. Akins was soon off the phone and ready to chat. As usual, I asked him to introduce himself, and to tell us a little about himself before becoming a South Carolina Park Ranger.

Mr. Akins is the first Marshall graduate I’ve met in the South Carolina Park Service. Good to have that diversity in the Service. Not everyone need graduate from Clemson, Coastal Carolina, or Southern Illinois. 

akins 2 Mr. Akins then described his State Park Service career, beginning with an assistant rangership at Myrtle Beach State Park, one of the busiest. He then went to Dreher Island State Park on Lake Murray in the Midlands as a full-time Ranger. Followed by stints at Santee State Park, and Woods Bay State Natural Area. He arrived at Little Pee Dee six years ago.

carolina bay 1 I had to ask Mr. Akins more about Carolina Bays. The road to the Park cuts through one just before reaching the Little Pee Dee River. Quite a surprising sight.

carolina bay 2 A ridge of white sand that could compete with anything the Florida Gulf coast has to offer! Supporting a variety of low-growing trees like the one you see above. Some Carolina bays have water; others don’t.

carolina bay 3 Here’s a close-up of some of the tree leaves.

office 2 We then turned to the building housing the Little Pee Dee State Park Office. Having had some experience with administration in years past, I was especially impressed with the ingenuity illustrated by this building. How effectively the limited space has been used. And how well the building has been maintained. And improved! Now, that’s a textbook example of working within one’s budget!

office 3 It began life as two small maintenance sheds. Built in Columbia, I believe, and trucked here where they were fastened together.

office 4 The rear portion of the building became an attractive office space. Small, but fully functional. Everything necessary to administer the Park readily at hand.

office front The front half of the building is devoted to the visitor welcome center and retail space. It’s hard to imagine, but all of that is here! Note the woodworking detail in the photo above. All done and maintained by Park Personnel.

retail spaceHere’s one part of the retail space that Mr. Akins mentions. Firewood neatly stacked, a bulletin board for visitor photos.

retail 2 And, here’s a shot of the other side. Including the Visitors Welcome Center constructed here at the Park. Most impressive, everything is displayed without giving the impression of being cluttered.

book swap And this, I believe, is the original book lending library in the Park System. We’ll have to wait for confirmation from higher authority to be sure. Ranger David Senter and Park Manager Geoff Akins began with part of David’s collection of western novels, and it’s expanded from that core.

Another “high bang; low buck” project that, like this Park Office building, illustrates how innovative Park personnel are adapting to severe budget constraints. Managing to maintain the resources under their care and a high level of service for Park visitors.

akins 3 I then asked Mr. Akins about the Park’s RV camping facilities, and the visitors who use them. He said his campers are a mix of local “regulars” and folks from all over the country who arrive from nearby I-95. Some of them regulars too. Returning once or twice a years on their ways to and from Florida.

campsite 1 Most of the campsites here have a sandy surface. But, as you can see above, they’re spacious and well maintained.

campsite 2 Plenty of room on many, if not most, of the 32 water/electric sites to park a large motor home.

new bath house Here’s a picture of the newer bath house. Surrounded at the moment by flowering dogwoods, azaleas, and other plants that must require a lot of care. This bath house, by the way, was built in the 1980s by Park personnel.

akins 4 The forest in this part of South Carolina is quite different from that I’ve seen in other parts of the State. So I asked Mr. Akins about that, and about the plants and wildlife in the area.

We then talked more about fishing and boating, both on Lake Norton and on the Little Pee Dee River. Lots of opportunities for both here. Though I didn’t get to paddle the Little Pee Dee yet. Maybe next time.

akins 5 As you might expect, the greatest challenge facing Park Manager Geoff Akins and Ranger David Senter is getting everything done that must be done with only two people. Note, though, in Mr. Akins response to the question that he emphasizes pride in the accomplishment rather than any hint of complaint. Good to see!

As usual, at the end of the interview I asked Mr. Akins to speculate on the future of Little Pee Dee State Park. He envisions a continuation of the increase in RV camper visitors the Park has experienced over the past few years. Especially with completion of the new interstate, I-73, which is likely to be within five miles of the Park.

Thanks again to Park Manager Geoff Akins and Ranger David Senter for another great RV camping experience at a South Carolina State Park. Next I hope to visit the Lee State Natural Area that I passed on the way here last Sunday. So stay tuned.

Click here to hear the interview with Park Manager Geoff Akins in its entirety.

Click here to return to the CarolinaConsidered website.

1 comment:

  1. Another well done series. Thank you. And you were afraid you would not find enough to write about if you started a a blog!!!