Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area runs with a minimum of staff. The Park Manager, Mr. James Christie, his assistant, Ranger Matthew, Miss Betty, who handles maintenance, and a camp host. That’s it! For the whole Park. With a few volunteers from time to time. So I feared Park Manager Christie might not have time for an interview this visit.
When I stopped by the office Monday morning, he was there, busily answering phones, talking with visitors, and even straightening up tables on the Pavilion porch. Still, he agreed to sit down for a while to record an interview.
As usual, we began with details of Mr. Christie’s early life. He was born and raised in the charming South Carolina town of Inman. “Peach Capital of the World,” Inman is In Spartanburg County. Now part of the Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan area. As Mr. Christie explains, though, it was smaller when he was coming of age there.
Mr. Christie emphasizes the importance of his involvement in Scouting while growing up in Inman. Where he became an Eagle Scout. He’s not alone. Many Park Service personnel mention the importance of their Scouting experiences when asked to explain how they became interested in the out-of-doors.
How many of the Park Managers we’ve interviewed have graduated from Clemson? There’ve been a bunch! And Mr. Christie gets added to that List. Here’s a link to Clemson’s undergraduate program in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. It describes the curriculum and the various minors. Looks like a good program.
Mr. Christie has been with the Park Service for nearly 28 years. That makes him one of the most senior Park Managers now serving. Here he describes his career to date. Including experience in parks large and small. Parks as large as Hunting Island, where he was assistant manager for six years, to Lake Warren State Park, a day-use facility. With Hickory Knob somewhere in between.
Mr. Christie was selected to open both Aiken State Park and Lake Warren State Park. A credit to his reputation in the Service. Listen as he describes arriving at Aiken State Park to a trailer with no water and electricity, the differences between Hickory Knob and Hunting Island, and preparing Lake Warren to meet visitors’ expectations. All interesting material.
While describing his career, and how each Park assignment was different, Mr. Christie made some interesting general comments on the challenges of park management. Specifically, the need to balance preservation of the State’s natural resources with public demands for access to those resources. He puts it well here. Have a listen.
We next turned attention to Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area itself and its visitors. Here Park Manager Christie describes the origins of this beautiful Park. It was built in the late 1960s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And then leased to the State of South Carolina for management. An interesting arrangement. We’ve heard before about the relationship between state parks on the shores of Lake Hartwell, and other Corps of Engineers-managed lakes in the State.
The lake, of course, is the main feature of this 395 acre Park. I didn’t realize Lake Hartwell was so large. 56,000 acres, according to Mr. Christie. With over 920 miles of shoreline. Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area on its eastern shore includes some of the most beautiful miles of that shoreline. A kayak paddle along this shore is a near-mystical experience. More on that later.
The opportunity to access Lake Hartwell conveniently isn’t the only reason folks visit Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area, however. Mr. Christie and I sat during our conversation on the porch of the Pavilion building that houses the Park Office. This porch, or meeting area, is special. About 1,200 square feet, it seats up to around 120 people comfortably at picnic tables. It’s popular for weddings, big family reunions, and corporate picnics. It commands a spectacular view of the Lake.
Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area maintains two hiking trails. Well, the longer trail, four miles or so, actually is multiple use. Both mountain biking and hiking. The shorter, three-tenths of a mile trail, is only for hiking. Mr. Christie describes both trails as quite accessible. Appropriate for geezer hikers, in other words. But still with enough diversity to be interesting. No hard-to-climb hills. Park staff and volunteers maintain these trails in top condition throughout the year.
Our time was getting short by now. But I still had to ask him about RV camping opportunities and the Park’s wildlife. Sadlers Creek maintains nearly 60 RV campsites with water and electricity, and a number of rustic tent sites with only central water. More on the campsites later. One loop remains open year-round. Which means the bath house is heated! This looks to me like an ideal Park for winter RV camping.
As you might imagine, the Park is full of wildlife. Mr. Christie said there are more than 30 deer in the herd that roams the Park. I’ll try to get some photos and maybe video later on. Plus wild turkey, all sorts of birds, raccoons, and even fox squirrels. The deer often come to the edge of the large ball field near the campground to feed toward dusk. Folks line up in cars along the road to watch. I’ll give it a try later in the visit.
Thanks again, Park Manager Christie, for your information and most generous allocation of time. You and your colleagues maintain a wonderful facility. I look forward to spending more time here in the future.