McCorkle leaving Chapman

After nearly five years as park manager at Chapman State Park, Jim McCorkle is moving on.

“It’s been a pleasure working here. I truly enjoyed being part of the community and part of the park, and I’ve appreciated everybody that’s been open to us and willing to help out,” he said. “It’s been a good experience.”

McCorkle, a Butler native, transferred as a trainee from the State Park Region 1 office in Emporium and started at Chapman on Memorial Day weekend in 2009. The park was, at the time, still undergoing construction for new restrooms and facilities.

He will be the assistant manager at Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County, which is a bigger park with a larger campground and a number of sites and facilities built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

“It’s pretty much going to be the same job,” he said. “It will definitely be a good experience for me…but it’s going to be tough to leave here. My wife and I both love living in the area and working in the park has been very nice. It’s kind of bitter sweet.”

During his first year at the park, pet camping was added; that’s something he said will be expanded again.

“They are going to open up the entire lower loop of the campgrounds to pet camping,” a move most state parks have done, he said. “A lot of folks really enjoy bringing their animals camping.”

The pet camping sites are among the first to fill up over holiday weekends. Summer at the state park is the busy time of year for employees and “expanding that is going to be a good thing for next year,” he said.

Winters at the park are slow, he said, but snowmobilers and ice fisherman do take advantage of the park, providing a welcome distraction from the winter budget season.

“This time of year it’s budget stuff and trying to pre-plan for this coming season,” he said.

Spending time outdoors in the park was part of the draw to the job, something he did with his family as a child. Before the birth of their child three months ago, he and his wife would take regular walks around the lake.

“It was absolutely part of it. That’s why I got into this field,” he said. “There’s no typical day…it’s part of the fun.”

Leaving the park will also offer him a different perspective – visiting the park for the weekend out of uniform.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back here and going camping and just enjoying the park and seeing it from a different perspective,” he said. “Enjoying the park off the clock and not thinking about ‘what needs to be done?’ or ‘What are those folks doing over there?'”