“There is no better way to get in the mood for summer than a visit to the park.”
So said a flyer for an open house at Hungry Mother State Park held five years ago to welcome then new manager, Nate Clark.
This month, Clark will say farewell to Hungry Mother as he embarks on a new position as manager at Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield County. It is a promotion for him and an opportunity for his family.
“Pocahontas is the largest and, arguably, the busiest park in the state,” Clark said. “For my family and career, this is a good opportunity.”
Clark said there are 38 parks in the Virginia system and employees are encouraged to move around.
“It helps to round out folks,” he said. “They put you where they wanted you in the old days. Not so much anymore, but they encourage moving around. They asked me if I was interested and thought I’d be a good fit.”
There are mixed emotions about leaving, though. Clark said his family will miss the friends and opportunities they have had in Marion but are excited about new opportunities, especially for his and wife Jamie’s two sons who are poised to enter high school, one this coming year and the other two years later. He said he would be reluctant to move them once they had started high school.
“It's a move that's full of mixed emotions,” he said. “I've really enjoyed the five years that I've spent in Marion and Hungry Mother and am grateful for the support that the community, partners and all of you have shown me.”
“When I moved my family here five years ago the community and all of you were extremely welcoming and supportive. For that I will always be grateful. Hungry Mother is an incredible place and the ownership that the community shows the park is unmatched in our agency of 38 parks. Over the years I've heard so many stories of how the park has been involved with people's lives, it's pretty amazing stuff.”
Growing up in Harrisonburg, Clark said he always loved the outdoors. One year he spent five months working at Yellowstone National Park. The year after he graduated high school he spent the summer driving around the country visiting such sites as Mount Rushmore and the Hoover Dam. He said his sons, Brady and Ryan, have been fortunate to spend their whole lives in parks. They enjoy outdoor activities and recreation.
Pocahontas and the surrounding area will offer more and different opportunities for them, Clark said. There are several lakes in the park for boating and fishing. There’s no beach like at Hungry Mother but a pool for swimming that is popular.
This will be the fourth park Clark has worked in. The manager there has been promoted to district manager and will be Clark’s boss.
“I know you all will continue to support the park that you love, the park that is home, and I know that you'll show the next manager the same welcome and support that you showed me,” Clark said. “We've done some amazing things for the park and community in the recent years and more improvements and partnerships will continue for many more years.”
Clark said he is especially proud of the accomplishments the park has made under his leadership.
“If you can look back at the end of tenure and see you left a park better than when you came, I think I can comfortably say that,” he said. “Parker the Red Fox Discovery Area is great for youth, and we are working on the bridge replacement (to the amphitheater island). I will be back to see that.”
Clark also noted the hiking and biking challenges, a visit by the governor, and various improvements made at the park in the past five years.
“The way the community appreciates and supports the park and uses the park is amazing,” he said. “There are just real deep ties to the park in the community. There is a little bit of that everywhere, but so much here.”
Clark anticipates leaving around the middle of June. Applications for his position closed last week and are currently being screened. He won’t be here to work with his successor, but he will be in touch.
“I'll be working with the team here to ensure a smooth transition and any projects that the park is working on with partners will continue,” he said. “I'll make sure that staff are updated on progress and what needs to happen next. If there are any concerns that you'd like me to address before I leave, please let me know. During the transition the contacts for the park will be Assistant Manager Jim Young (email@example.com) and Office Manager Ann Pickle (firstname.lastname@example.org).”
“And, one more time, thank you for everything over the last five years. It’s been a privilege to serve the park and community and work with all of you.”