Last month, a dream came true for one Roaring River State Park staff member. Dusty Reid, who was hired as the park's assistant superintendent in the spring of 2007, was promoted to superintendent of the local park on Oct. 16.
"I have a passion for the park that was instilled in me as a young boy when I camped and fished here with my parents," said Reid. "This has been my goal for the last 15 or 20 years. I've worked in other state parks, but all of those jobs were geared toward making the right moves to come back here."
Last year, when former park superintendent Kevin Bolling accepted a position as Kansas City area operations manager, Reid was asked to serve as Roaring River's acting superintendent but he was not guaranteed the management position.
Along with seven other candidates, Reid underwent an interview process to determine who was most qualified for the job. In early October, he was officially offered the superintendent's position, which he happily accepted.
"I really enjoy the added responsibility," said Reid. "I like the idea of playing a larger role in planning for the future of the park.
"When I was growing up, I learned to appreciate the natural resources of the park," said Reid. "Now I'm learning to protect and preserve what the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) did and the history of the area prior to becoming a state park."
As superintendent, Reid will move from a position that focused on campground management to managing overall operations throughout the park.
"I still have the goal to get out and visit with the campers," said Reid. "I like to drive through the park on Sundays and thank the campers for coming and ask them if there is anything we can do to improve their stay in the future.
"I also enjoy walking through the campgrounds at dusk on Saturday nights," said Reid. "I love hearing the conversations around the campfires, listening to the kids laughing and smelling marshmallows roasting on the campfires."
Over the next few months, Reid will face the greatest challenge in his new position. He will be leading the park staff through a variety of projects that are scheduled to be completed during the off-season.
"Our biggest challenge is that we are so busy so long," said Reid. "We are busy for eight months then we have two weeks to winterize the park and three months to complete upgrades before we unwinterize the park for the next season."
This year, the park staff is concentrating on improving the CCC Lodge, which houses the park store. The exterior of the building has been painted and the decking on the front porch will be replaced over the next few months.
"The park staff has worked on a lot of big projects over the last few years," said Reid. "I would like to see us get back to the basics this year. All of the buildings need to be painted and receive new roofs."
In addition to smaller maintenance projects, remodeling work will continue on the four-plex cabins, and another project will upgrade the wall around the spring pool near the hatchery. The staff also has plans to build an amphitheater near the nature center and upgrade the seating at the existing amphitheater.
At the end of November, the park staff will host a groundbreaking ceremony for another large project. The ceremony will mark the beginning of construction on a new 5,160-square-foot park store.
The staff will also continue its yearly burning to clear invasive plant species from the glades around the park and plant nearly 200 trees throughout campground three.
Although he will be overseeing all operations at the park, Reid feels the relationships he has established with his fellow park staff members will assist him throughout the off-season and the coming year.
"This is a unique situation because I worked with most of the park staff back when I was attending college and they took care of me like I was a little brother back then," said Reid. "I feel I have already gained the respect of the staff.
"They accept me as one of the team, which is great because they are a really good staff," said Reid. "Knowing that I don't have an assistant, they have been a big help and extremely supportive over the last few months."
Reid, who is originally from Joplin, will also benefit from his extensive career in conservation, which began while he was working as a seasonal employee at Roaring River.
After completing bachelor degrees in biology with an emphasis in conservation ecology and public speaking, Reid served as an adventure recreation director at Indiana University, an interpretive ranger for the United States Forest Service in Alaska and an environmental educator at Camp McDowell in Alabama.
Prior to accepting the assistant superintendent position at Roaring River, Reid also served as an assistant superintendent at Sam A. Baker State Park, a park manager at George Owens Park in Independence and the park superintendent at Edward "Ted" and Pat Jones Confluence Point State Park and Katy Trail State Park.
Although he has visited many state parks across the state and country, Reid was determined to return to Roaring River where his passion for conservation began.
"This is a beautiful place to work," said Reid. "At any given moment you can stop, turn around and appreciate the scenic beauty.
"Plus, the park has so much to offer," said Reid. "It doesn't just offer fishing. It offers swimming and hiking. People come here just for birding. Roaring River also has an amazing historical and cultural value. I appreciate the historical aspect of the park more every day."
Reid and his wife, Lisa, have two sons, Dixon, who is 3, and Miller, who is 1. The family resides in Roaring River State Park.