George Shinn, interim Park Manager at South Cumberland State Park, was drawn to the plateau over twenty years ago. Originally from Dallas, his wife Jessica is from Van Buren County, and the couple have made their home in Grundy County. They are the parents of two children, Katherine and William.
George’s early career plans did not include the great outdoors. A fine arts major, he hoped to become an art teacher and work with small children. However, once he and his wife moved back to the plateau, he took a job at Fall Creek Falls State Park teaching arts and crafts. This position led to a full-time job as the park naturalist, running environmental programs at the education center.
“Everything I dreamed a park ranger does is there,” says George of his time at Savage Gulf. “Once there, I never wanted to leave.”
When the park manager took sick leave two years ago, George stepped up to become the interim manager and is excited about the direction the park is taking.
“We are the largest natural area in Tennessee, with a little over 25,000 acres. By the end of this year, we will have increased the park size by acquiring land in almost all of our managed areas.”
This year, the park is looking back, while looking forward. “Hike into History” events, in conjunction with the Friends of South Cumberland, offer the community the opportunity to explore the rich history of the park.
“For many years, we have promoted the wildlife and the natural areas of the park,” said George. “The hikes we are offering this year allow everyone to experience historical aspects of the park. The 1820 Savage home place and the McMinn Stagecoach Road are just two of the many historical landmarks on the park’s property.”
Looking to the future, George says by 2020, the park would like to offer living history exhibits, with rangers dressed in period costume and offering tours of historical landmarks. He hopes the CCC area at Grundy Forest will highlight the work the men did in the area, along with their living conditions.
Working with local schools is also important to George, and the future of the park.
“It is important that we share the history of the park, in addition to its beauty, and not allow it to be forgotten,” he says.
Another push to the future for the park are TN Promise Saturdays. High school seniors can work at the park to receive the volunteer hours needed to be eligible for the scholarship.
Signup is now open for the upcoming TN Promise Saturday, this weekend. Interested seniors can register at www.tnstateparks.com, or meet at the Grundy Forest parking lot on Saturday, at 9 a.m. a ranger will be on-site to register students to work on the Fiery Gizzard Trail reroute.