Sunday, July 1, 2012

Visit to Chester State Park, South Carolina

Last week I was able to spend some time at Chester State Park. Sort of a vacation. I’d planned a different outing, but at the last minute couldn’t resist the thought of a few peaceful days at this beautiful getaway. That’s site # 4 you see above. Just about ideal. Flat; pull-through; solid surface; great view of the lake. Electricity and water, of course. Now, how can you beat that?

01 Security LightOh, that’s the latest addition to the Aliner. A security light that turns on only at night, and then only when it senses movement near the Aliner. A “Mr Beams MB360.” Works like a charm. And only $20 or so.

The light runs on four D-cell batteries, so it’s pretty heavy. Had to place it with a combination of “extreme” Velcro, a supplementary hook, and a short length of bungee cord. it’s easy to mount and dismount with the passenger-side “A” down.

Now, have a look at this. A group of 4H students enjoying their annual camping outing.

Twenty-some campers with ten or so chaperoning adults, at least when I checked. They set up their tents and equipment down by the lake.

What a nice group of kids. Quiet, engaged in their activities, and not a sound from them after 9:PM or so. Gathered from four South Carolina counties. Camp Host Mr. Sonny told me all of their sites were clean as whistles when they packed up and left. And Mr. Sonny’s fussy about his campsites. Maybe there’s hope for this country after all!

Just a few words about the Park. Somehow, Park Manager John Wells and his assistant, Brandon Bowers, between them keep everything spic and span. Lots of personal investment from both of them supplementing what has to be a limited budget. And it shows.

Here’s an example of that personal investment. And initiative. The lake at Chester has a nice boat ramp. But last time I visited there weren’t any parking spaces long enough to accommodate trucks with their trailers attached. So John and Brandon recently carved these spots out with some borrowed earthmoving equipment!

Cost? Gasoline, a few more hours on the equipment, and a healthy investment of what OverHome we used to call “elbow grease” from John and Brandon. Another “high-bang; low-buck” project here at Chester.

Oh, and speaking of “high-bang, low-buck” projects, here’s another one. Look carefully at this trailhead. Give it a click so you’re able to see the rails and steps more clearly. Also notice the stone wall. That’s part of the original stone wall laid up by the African-American CCC Company 4475 that built this Park. Here’s a link to more information about their work.

Expensive, right? Not hardly. If I remember correctly, this trailhead is a local high school Junior ROTC group project. They supply the labor and materials. The Park provides the supervision and encouragement. Another means of stretching scarce Park budget dollars. I mean!

I could go on and on. But just a couple more examples. Click on the photo above. That’s part of the original Chester State Park sign. From the 1930s! Discovered while cleaning out a maintenance shed.

John and Brandon decided to rescue it, mount it on a background made of boards from the original building, and hang the completed display on the wall of the new office. Now, try putting old boards together to make a smooth mounting surface sometime! I look forward to seeing the sign hang in the new office.

Speaking of the new office building, here it is. Not the largest in the system, by any means. But space is allocated inside so they’ll even have room for a small retail section!

One other nice thing about Chester State Park is its proximity to the City of Chester. Chester’s one of those places in South Carolina that seems determined to take advantage of its history and heritage. There’s a lot to see, so try to save a full day to look around. Check the website link above for detailed information and events. Lots to learn, and wonderful food.

There’s a great Bi-Lo store nearby too. Just 3.7 miles. One of the biggest in the State, open 24 hours a day. Handy whenever you run out of milk, peanut butter, or other Life Essentials.

I’ve written before about the importance of Camp Hosts. Trish and Sonny Walker, now at Chester, are fine examples. As you might imagine, with so few personnel at the Park, they both stay busy as one-armed paper-hangers. But if you can catch them with a few minutes free be sure to ask about the surrounding region. Both were born and grew up nearby.

So they’re both great sources of information, and as helpful as can be. When’s the last time you had a Camp Host call to say you’d left a piece of equipment on your site, and that he’s holding it for you? Well, I got just such a call from Mr. Sonny on Friday.

So, thanks again to Park Manager John Wells, Assistant Brandon Bowers, Camp Hosts Mr. and Mrs. Walker, Sonny and Trish, and the latest staff arrival, Miss Kayla in the Office. You folks all made a wonderful vacation even better. Hope to see you again soon.

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