Several Georgia State Park and Historic Site employees were honored recently during their annual Managers Conference held in north Georgia. Site managers attended an awards ceremony celebrating those who make more than 60 State Parks and Historic Sites outstanding destinations across Georgia. They also attended training sessions and shared ideas on park operations. Below are this year’s award winners.
Henry Struble Manager-of-the-Year Award
Desmond Timmons, Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, Pine Mountain
Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park’s popularity has skyrocketed under Desmond Timmon’s leadership. Desmond worked to reintroduce prescribed burning on Pine Mountain, which had not been done in more than 12 years. He has been directly involved in the park’s campground renovations, Lake Franklin Dam renovations and the addition of 10 acres of interpretive trails, plus he sits on Harris County’s tourism committee. Having served more than 10 years at Georgia’s largest state park, Desmond is a well-respected senior manager within Georgia’s State Park System.
Park Ranger Bravery Award
Bud Fuller, Reed Bingham State Park, Adel
After heavy rainfall in April, the Little River had risen to dangerously high levels. Reed Bingham State Park Manager Bud Fuller received a call from Cook County Sheriff’s Office letting him know that a visitor reported an overturned vessel, a man was on shore yelling for help, and a woman and small child were holding onto a tree in the middle of flooded waters. Fuller responded quickly, and with assistance from park employee Tom Daugherty and Cook County Sheriff Doug Hanks, they rescued the boaters. Georgia Department of Natural Resources Game Warden Aaron Powell recovered the overturned vessel. Due to Fuller’s emergency-response preparedness and excellent relationship with local officials, a potentially deadly situation was diverted.
Most Outstanding Site Operation
Indian Springs State Park, Flovilla
Under Manager Katherine Darsey’s leadership, Indian Springs State Park has had an outstanding year. The middle-Georgia park excels with guest services and administrative duties, and staff completed natural-resource projects such as erosion control and invasive-plant management. The park’s lakeside Idlewilde Event Center continues to draw even more guests each year for weddings, reunions and other gatherings.
Natural Resources Enhancement Award
Seminole State Park, Bainbridge
Under Manager Tyler Sims’ leadership, Seminole State Park has been exceptionally successful in protecting Longleaf Pine and Wiregrass habitat so crucial to southern Georgia’s ecosystem. Park staff safely burned more than 300 acres with prescribed fire, removed pervasive species such as the tallow tree, and removed invasive species such as Sweet Gum, Chinese Privet and Japanese Climbing Fern. The park’s focus on natural resource enhancement also included new trail signs explaining the importance of the Wiregrass ecosystem throughout the park.
Best Year-Round Programming Award
Fort McAllister State Park, Richmond Hill
In 1864, General Sherman ended his “March to the Sea” at Fort McAllister. Today, the property combines Civil War history with traditional state park activities. The park’s interpretive staff welcomed more than 10,000 participants to more than 170 programs last year, including their most successful annual candlelight tour to date. Visitors can also take daily guided tours of the well-preserved fort. Manager Jason Carter is the division’s lead black-powder safety trainer and has brought his cannon crew for demonstrations around the state.
Cultural Resource Enhancement Award
SAM Shortline Excursion Train, Cordele
Chris Lockwood and his staff at SAM Shortline Train restored a 1953 power car back to its original lettering and car number from the United States Army Medical Division. Originally built as an Army hospital kitchen car, it was converted to a power car by private owners. The SAM Shortline purchased the car in 2003, and now that it is back in its original colors, it gives veterans another unique historical artifact that is at home at Georgia Veterans State Park.
Customer Service Award
Jamie Madden, Red Top Mountain State Park, Acworth
Red Top Mountain State Park Manager Jamie Madden follows the motto that challenges are not problems, but rather opportunities. The park’s beach and campground renovations led to site closures which required exceptional customer service and flexibility by park staff. To keep her staff informed and prepared, she conducted customer service training so all could carry the DNR’s “We Serve” customer-service coin. Madden’s willingness to assist visitors is always a priority.
Outstanding Golf Course of the Year Award
The Creek at Hard Labor Creek State Park, Social Circle
The Creek Golf Course is known for its quality experience of booking golf packages, hosting tournaments, providing lessons, and offering guest services at its clubhouse. This year, The Creek hosted the Georgia High School Association 4A public school playoffs, had cart path sections repaired, removed vegetation, repaired tee boxes, and sent staff to assist at other state park golf courses when needed. The award was accepted by Course Manager Karl Gross.
Tie – Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls and Wormsloe State Historic Site, Savannah
Despite staff shortages, Tallulah Gorge employees have worked diligently to ensure shelves remain stocked with necessities and souvenirs for visitors. The park’s clerks are top-notch and Manager Lieren Merz keeps a close eye on retail products and inventory, making their gift shop a successful operation. At Wormsloe Historic Site, Assistant Manager Jeri Nokes carefully curates gift shop items to enhance visitors’ experiences, significantly growing their retail operations over the past few years. Managed by Gretchen Greminger, Wormsloe is one of Savannah’s most photographed and visited historic sites, so mementos are important to guests. Popular items include hand blown glass and handcrafted ironwork that reflect the site’s colonial history.