Up this morning at Lee State Park fairly early. In time for a nice walk around the campground and surrounding trails. A beautiful morning.
Click on the “click to listen” buttons to hear the audio.
As usual, we began with a personal introduction, including her education and early career. I was especially interested in her description of the program at Southern Illinois University that prepared her for this work.
I then asked Ms. Harmer about her career in the South Carolina Park Service. She certainly has had a diverse experience. Do you remember the posts here about Keowee-Toxaway State Park? Well, Ms. Harmer served there for a while. Another incredible Park.
You may have noticed that some Park Service facilities are “state parks,” while others are “state natural areas.” I asked Ms. Harmer to explain the difference for us. She did, and also mentioned that Lee hereafter will be “Lee State Park,” not “Lee State Natural Area.” That’s a relief!
Now, about the trip to Columbia this morning. Ms. Harmer actually is on annual leave. She shouldn’t be in the office at all. Let alone doing interviews with visiting campers! But she and Ranger Shelley had to drive to Columbia this morning to receive another award. Lee County’s Adopt-A-Highway outstanding county group of the year. The second year running the Park has won the award.
This is no small matter. South Carolina’s Adopt-A-Highway program has made a tremendous difference in the appearance of our State’s roads and highways. I mentioned Road 22 in an earlier post. It runs north for several miles from I-20 to Route 15. It’s the access route to Lee State Park. The front door, so to speak. Park personnel – and volunteers when they’re available – maintain the roadside in pristine condition. Take time to notice when you drive by. A time-consuming and often thankless task.
I then asked Ms. Harmer how she would describe her State Park. The features that stand out. From her perspective as Park Manager. Her description nicely summarizes the diversity of this environment. Both dry and wet. The sandhills portion supports one selection of flora and fauna. The wetlands another. Much of the Park is under water. At least for part of the year. Some of it permanently. This wetter area supports quite a different selection of plant and animal life. Lots to see, in other words.
Walking, hiking, and equestrian trails through the drier portions of the Park’s 3,000 acres provide several levels of access. The Park’s remarkable boardwalk even allows visitors to venture right into the wettest areas without inconvenience or danger.
A few posts back I mentioned equestrian facilities here at Lee State Park. So I asked Ms. Harmer to describe them. Come to find out the Park maintains seven miles of horse trails. As well as the horse-friendly campsites, corrals, and show ring. So, horse lovers take note!
You may recall the description of the four ponds behind the Park Office in an earlier post. I was curious about them. Were they built by the CCC? Or were they part of one or more of the seven homesteads on this property from long before the CCC?
Well, Ms. Harmer cleared that up. The larger pond, the one fed directly by the artesian wells, was a mill pond. The Park now stocks it with catfish for visiting fishermen. The three smaller, cascading, ponds were created by the CCC as part of a fish hatchery project.
Having been alerted by Ranger Lester Shelley that Ms. Harmer is an avid geochacher, I then asked her about that hobby. Click here to access a popular geocaching website. Looks interesting. Ms. Harmer noted that there are four active geocaches within the Park grounds. And at least one over at Woods Bay State Natural Area.
Lee State Park wasn’t crowded during my visit. But I was able to meet and talk with a variety of visitors. I asked Ms. Harmer who visits the Park, where they come from, and what they do while here. In addition to the horse folks and fishermen, she said the Park attracts a large number of one-nighter campers from the nearby Interstate. Folks who pull in, camp for one night, and then leave. What a shame. Be sure to plan to stay here several days if you happen to stop on your way to or from somewhere else. No sense to waste the opportunity.
Ms. Harmer also mentioned the importance of Interpretive Ranger Laura Kirk’s programs for both children and adults. Lee State Park is designated by the Discover Carolina program for fifth graders. Though other school groups visit as well. What an opportunity for nearby schools. An expanded classroom!
In addition to her responsibilities for Lee State Park, Mr. Harmer also manages Woods Bay State Natural Area. The facility we visited yesterday. Back when Woods Bay had its own Park Manager, Ms. Harmer had the position. So, she’s well informed on Woods Bay in particular, and on the Carolina bay phenomenon in general.
Listen to her description of Carolina bays and of the importance of Woods Bay. The remarkable boardwalk there was completed last summer. She says it is 1,150 feet long. And she ought to know. She did the initial layout, wading through the swamp. Not a job I’d volunteer for! Even in chest-high waders. Let’s hope they’re successful in attracting the additional funding necessary to extend that boardwalk. You’ll have to see it to appreciate it.
In closing, I had to ask Ms. Harmer about the boardwalk at Lee State Park. It too is an impressive piece of work. 800 feet long, it ends in a large viewing platform with two solid wooden benches. Earlier in the day I was able to sit on one of those benches quietly to observe the birds. No other animals made an appearance, but the birds were enough.
Thanks again to Park Manager Bryn Harmer, Interpretative Ranger Laura Kirk, and Rangers Lester Shelley, Frederick Stukes, and Tim Ritter. You folks maintain a wonderful facility that I hope to be able to visit again in the not-too-distant future.