Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Interview with Edisto Beach State Park Manager, Ms. Susan Spell

01 Edisto shoreEdisto Beach State Park ranks high in any category imaginable among South Carolina’s 47 State Parks. Indeed, among any of the State’s attractions. Visitors I’ve interviewed during repeated trips to Edisto Beach when asked about the Park respond in near reverential tones. Each mentioning a particular feature of the Park that brings them back time after time.

[Click any of these photos for a larger image]

altEdisto doesn’t attract the Park System’s highest annual visitorship. But I suspect it has the highest number of repeat visitors of any Park in the System. During multi-day visits here over the past decade I’ve heard only one visitor complain. And that was about service at the nearby grocery store; not about the Park or campground.

altI know; I know. It sounds too good to be true. So you’ll just have to visit here for a few days and decide for yourself.

If you have an RV there are two quite different campgrounds to accommodate your rig. One even offering 50-amp service. If you tent-camp, there are all sorts of places to spread your gear. Including one less expensive walk-in “primitive campground” that doesn’t offer electricity.

04 cabinAnd, if you have neither an RV nor a tent, the Park rents five fully furnished cabins, recently renovated, with screened porches that look out over the nearby brackish creek and marsh.

South Carolina’s State Parks all are located in beautiful and interesting surroundings. But beautiful surroundings alone do not make a successful Park. Even the best facilities must be maintained and the Park managed in a way that offers visitors an enjoyable experience during their stay. While at the same time managing to conserve the natural environment that inspired placement of the Park there in the first place. Not an easy balance!

I’ve yet to visit all of South Carolina’s State Parks. There are still sixteen or seventeen to go. But, those I have visited persuade me that park management makes an enormous difference in the visitors’ experience. The realization that inspired this series of interviews with State Park managers and Park Interpretive Rangers.

05 spell awardAfter some persuasion, Edisto Beach State Park Manager, Ms. Susan Spell, agreed to take time for an interview on January 4th. Like many of her colleagues, she was a reluctant subject. Especially reluctant when she saw me arrive with camera gear and digital microphone.

I finally persuaded her with the argument we would spend most of our time talking about the Park. Well, we did that. But we began, as usual, with discussion of her personal background and how it prepared her for this job. Click below for the first of five segments of this inspiring interview to learn more about Ms. Susan Spell.

From there we moved on to Ms. Spell’s remarkable twenty-one-year Park Service career. It demonstrates, I think, that Park Managers don’t win awards like the one pictured above without some serious effort and hard work.

We then, much to Ms. Spell’s relief, moved on to her description and interpretation of Edisto Beach State Park. There’s so much at Edisto to describe that it took us three full interview segments. And even then much remained on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Here’s the first segment:

And here in the next segment Ms. Spell describes camping at Edisto Beach State Park in more detail: 

We concluded the interview with Ms. Spell’s description of the Park’s Indian Mound, or the Spanish Mount, as it’s sometimes called. An important Southeast American Indian archeological site that’s been preserved by the Park Service in a way that has maintained its accessibility for visitors. It’s something you have to see:

Thanks again, Park Manager Susan Spell, for your time and for your contribution to the CarolinaConsidered Project.

Click here to return to the CarolinaConsidered Project website.


  1. Thanks so much for the video and post on Edisto Beach State Park. In considering rental cottages/cabins, it's nice to know there is a viable alternative to the more posh oceanfront rentals. I enjoyed your clips!

  2. I want to move into one of the cabins and stay there forever. Can't wait to return to SC and stay overnight on Edisto Island, a place I consider close to Paradise. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication.