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George Shinn, who has been a South Cumberland State Park ranger for 13 years and is stationed at Savage Gulf, was recently selected Park Ranger of the Year by the Tennessee Park Rangers Association. According to fellow South Cumberland ranger Bill Knapp, “George is an honest, organized, and professional ranger. He supports his co-workers however he can. He is there to bring up morale or to lend a helping hand.”
“Ranger George Shinn works in a very large and complex park. Many park managers in the Tennessee State Park system are responsible for parks much smaller than the area the one he is assigned to and have more help to operate their parks. We are happy that George has been recognized by his peers for the good work he does at Savage Gulf,” said Park Manager John Christof.
Savage Gulf, one of the ten parks that make up the South Cumberland, includes the fabled Stone Door. It contains 10 campgrounds and about 75 miles of trail. Normally, Shinn is responsible for checking campers at 7 of those campgrounds and doing trail work on half of the trails. Due to a staffing vacancy, he is currently covering the entire Savage Gulf.
George has quite a reputation as a storyteller, often dressed as Davy Crockett and carrying a long gun. In addition to his advertised park programs, he meets with many classes and groups. George has a following of fans who show up to many of his campfire programs, with bats being one of the most popular. He is active with 4-H, serves as a Boy Scout leader, and assists with Girl Scouts.
George has taken a leading role in fighting the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA) in the South Cumberland. Last year the rangers treated the vast majority of the hemlocks in Savage Gulf, and Shinn managed the crews and helped on the ground. George has become one of the more knowledgeable people in the state on the HWA and is one of the few with hands-on experience doing the treatments.
In 2012, South Cumberland held its first Savage Gulf Marathon. It was such a success, that it was repeated in March of 2013, with double the number of runners. George helped plan the route, mark the trails, promote the race, get donations, and organize volunteers. He also ran in the race as a sweeper. After the 2012 race, the rangers discovered that an elderly lady was lost. By the time George found her and brought her safely out of the woods, he had put in just short of a 20-hour day. “But George being George, I never heard any complaints,” said Bill Knapp.
Park Ranger George Shinn with a group of Grundy County
fifth grade students after leading them on a Stone door hike.