New Roaring River superintendent gearing up for Opening Day
Taylor brings 17 years of forestry experience to state park post
Just less than six months after starting his post as the new Superintendent at Roaring River State Park, Roger Taylor is set to lead his team into Opening Day on Thursday.
A graduate of the University of Arkansas with a bachelor of science in forestry in 2000, Taylor has spent the last 17 years working in the private forestry industry, first as inventory forester before promoting through to the Southeast Regional Manager for Campbell Global.
Taylor was responsible for management of 450,000 acres of timber in five states, including natural resource management and protection of sensitive ecosystems; maintaining external relationships with U.S. Forest Service, county commissioners, forest industry, conservations groups, adjacent landowners and the general public; management of a $6 million annual operating budget; and he was responsible for staff training in resource management practices, historical or culturally important site protections, as well as many other accomplishments.
"I grew up in a small town similar to Cassville in south Arkansas," he said. "Growing up in a rural area, obviously I spent most of my time outdoors, either hunting, fishing, golfing, hiking or camping. As for which I prefer, to be honest, I like most any outdoor recreation activity, but if forced to choose I would lean towards fishing."
Taylor said he is a great fit for the post, as he has spent a lot of time working in hardwood management and management of special sites.
"I gained an appreciation and understanding of managing for unique resources," he said. "Industrial timberland is usually more production-minded, whereas the special sites, similar to what we have here at Roaring River, require much more detailed plans and hands-on attention, which for me is a lot more enjoyable."
Taylor began his duties in mid-September 2017, and he has been getting up to speed on all the aspects of running Roaring River State Park.
"The amount of moving pieces in a park this size is significant, and to understand fully will take some time," he said. "Luckily we have a great staff with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Also of note, we have a new Park Site Specialist, Assistant Manager Brian Hunter, who started just prior to my arrival. So a few new faces here, and getting everyone up to speed and operating at full capacity to ensure the highest customer satisfaction possible is the ultimate goal.
“I have always loved the Ozarks and my wife and I had always talked of retiring in the area. When I found the position advertised I saw an opportunity to combine my personal passions with my professional.”
Taylor said one of the biggest draws of the park to him personally is the history it carries.
"There are so many amazing aspects [of the park]," he said. "I really enjoy hearing the stories of guests who have been coming here for 50 years, or those coming from other countries and how they ended up finding our park. Also, I really like the [bald] eagles. There is just something about driving through the park and seeing an eagle flying down the river."
That history, Taylor said, brings responsibilities of preservation combined with progress, key goals he has in mind.
"When thinking of history I view it from a couple of aspects," he said. "From a preservation aspect, we want to preserve our historic structures, such as the CCC buildings and rock work, the old schoolhouse, etc., and also our cultural history such as artifacts so that generations to come will be able to enjoy them as we have. I think it is also important though to understand the history of the park as viewed by our guests who have been coming here for years. This way, we can manage the nostalgic aspects they have enjoyed over the years, but also not lose sight of progress, as every generation has slightly different interests."
As Opening Day approaches and up to 2,000 visitors head to the park, Taylor said he has been preparing.
"With the floods over the past couple years, the park was hit hard," he said. "So, we have been working to get things back in shape. A few of the items we’ve been focused on lately are removing sediment buildup on our parking lots and camping pads, cleaning the debris along the river bank and also spending a lot of time working on the CCC Lodge and cabins trying to freshen up a few things. We’ve had a really good off-season, and hopefully, the park will be in great shape for Opening Day."
Taylor said he has not been a frequent visitor to Roaring River in the past, however, the setting reminds him of where he grew up.
"Unfortunately I don’t have one of those long histories of coming to the park," he said. "I actually had only been here one time prior to accepting the position. However, it is such an amazing place, and in Cassville, everyone has been so friendly. It’s in a way very similar to the way things were where I spent my childhood."
Taylor replaced former Park Manager Kerry Hays, who retired from Missouri State Parks and now teaches in the Exeter School District.