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Jeff is a park manager’s park manager. Born and raised in Pumpkintown, South Carolina, he began his career at Table Rock State Park while still in high school. As a Park Service maintenance worker at the age of fifteen!
With a Table Rock State Park “education” under his belt, it was no surprise that Jeff chose to major in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management when he arrived at Clemson. It was a surprise that he was awarded one of the very few Park System scholarships to study there. Undoubtedly based in part on the quality of his work at Table Rock.
Click below to hear Mr. Atkins tell his own story:
Our conversation then moved to Mr. Atkins’ career in the Park Service. Including his climb through the ranks, with service at Huntington Beach, Lake Greenwood, Lake Hartwell, and Edisto Beach before arriving at Hunting Island six years ago.
Mr. Atkins then went on to describe Hunting Island State Park. With emphasis on its diversity, including a great public beach, salt marshes, and the thick maritime forests characteristic of a barrier island.
This Park’s Friends group, Friends of Hunting Island, Inc., has to be one of the largest and most active in the whole State Park System. Mr. Atkins describes it here, emphasizing the importance of the “Friends” to the operation of the Park. The group has grown from fairly modest beginnings to over 700 families.
By now, time was running out. Mr. Atkins had appointments lined up for the rest of the morning. But I had to ask about one final point: Park funding.
For years I’ve been hearing rumors that Hunting Island is one of the few Parks in the State Park system that takes in more in usage fees than it spends in operational costs. That, in fact, it manages each year to run a healthy surplus. I asked Mr. Atkins about that, and about the economic impact of state parks on their surrounding communities. Here’s his response:
Thanks again, Jeff Atkins, for your generous allocation of time for this interview, and for the information you’ve given us about South Carolina’s state parks and the folks responsible for their operation.