Photo by Kathryn Acree.
0812 Mike JeffreysOak Mountain State Park Superintendent Mike Jeffreys at Camp Tranquility, an area originally built by the WPA that is being restored by a non-profit group.
Oak Mountain State Park offers its visitors nearly 10,000 acres of pristine beauty. The park estimates it welcomes 500,000 people a year on average through its gates. Managing all that pristine beauty is no easy task. Just ask Park Superintendent Mike Jeffreys who describes his role at the park as almost being like “a mayor of a small town.”
Where is home and how did you get into this line of work?
I’m from Russellville, Ala., which is in Franklin County. I spent four years active duty in the Air Force in their military police. I traveled all over the world and when I came back to Russellville, I knew a job that would let me be in the woods was my calling. I spent five years at Lake Guntersville State Park as a park ranger then transferred to Monte Sano State Park as the assistant manager for three years. Then I was promoted to assistant manager at Joe Wheeler State Park and was there three years. I came to Oak Mountain State Park in March 2011. My wife, Shelly, and son, Cash, live here in the park in staff housing.
What were your thoughts about joining the staff here at the park?
I’ll admit I was a little hesitant because I’m a country boy. I thought of this area as moving to the big city. But, I’m highly impressed. This whole area is the best of both worlds. I’ve met a lot of wonderful
people and I’m so impressed how so many people who live around this park consider the park part of them.
What is a typical day for you?
I’m very “hands on.” My typical day could be anything from working with a law enforcement case to someone getting injured to figuring out why a toilet’s stopped up! That’s the truth. I think this job is a very rewarding job. I enjoy seeing the smiles on people’s faces who are here having a good, relaxing time. I’m trying to do everything I can with the budget we have to make the park the best that it can be. It helps that I work with a great staff that are committed to the same thing.
How has your limited funding affected the park?
We do have a great relationship with city of Pelham and Shelby County who treat us like an entity of themselves and help where they can. A lot of people think we (the park) get tax money. We get zero tax money from the state’s general fund and never have. We’ve always been self- sufficient. In the last couple of years we’ve had some revenue taken away from us— $5 million through bonds for maintenance and also a half percent cigarette tax—so now what we bring in is what we have to spend. What concerns me most about that is the upkeep of the facilities of the park.
What are some of your favorite areas of the park?
I love to go out to the Camp Tranquility area off the main state park road. A non- profit group is restoring that area that was built years ago by the WPA and I encourage people to check them out at www. camptranquility.net. It’s about a mile or so off the main park road and worth the walk.
I love our interpretive center and wildlife rehabilitation center. They’ve done such a wonderful job and if I’m taking people on a tour that’s one of our first stops.
As far as new areas, we’re looking at constructing a new playground in a big field off the one-way road near the lake. We’ve got a playground committee formed and I would welcome anyone with some fundraising experience that might like to help us out.
What events are coming up at the park?
We’ll have our fall festival October 13 at the Dogwood Pavilion. We have another trail race scheduled for November 11.
Our deer hunt will be going on the in fall with approximately 60 hunters, running November 1 – January 31. The Alabama Bow Hunters Association organizes that and it really helps keep the deer population under control. They are very professional and you never even know they are there.