Reprinted from the Tideland News
SWANSBORO — Sarah Kendrick, who began her career with state parks as a seasonal ranger more than a decade ago, has been named superintendent of Hammocks Beach State Park.
She replaces Paul Donnelly, who retired this summer after 10 years at the helm.
Kendrick’s promotion was confirmed Monday by Charlie Peek, a spokesman for the state Division of Parks and Recreation.
It completes a remarkable journey for the Jacksonville native and White Oak High School graduate. She was first hired at the park as a seasonal employee more than a decade ago by then-superintendent and mentor Sam Bland, a noted naturalist who now works for the N.C. Coastal Federation, an environmental group based in Ocean in western Carteret County.
“I’m really kind of overwhelmed,” said Kendrick. “To go from a seasonal employee to the superintendent … well, it’s not something you’d expect. I’m honored and excited and looking forward to getting to work.”
Kendrick graduated from N.C. State University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in natural resource management with a concentration in marine and coastal resources.
She began her career at Goose Creek State Park, near Washington in Beaufort County, in 2003, and was sent to Hammocks Beach State Park in 2005. She is married to Neil Kendrick, who is a law enforcement officer with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
At Hammocks Beach, Kendrick has overseen resource management efforts, including the nesting sea turtle program, environmental education programs for children and professional development programs for adults. She also served as a ferry captain – she has a master’s captain’s license – and managed the day-to-day operations of Bear Island, an undeveloped barrier island and the keystone of the park, accessible only by state ferries and private boats.
“I’m very excited about leading the park, especially now with the acquisition of the new property,” Kendrick said, referring to the recent acquisition, after a long court case, of 290 acres of property along Queens Creek on the mainland.
“I have an excellent staff to work with, a great team,” she said. “We all know each other and work well together, and we plan to do great things in the second century of the North Carolina State Parks system.”
State parks will celebrate their centennial next year.
Hammocks Beach could not have made a better choice, Bland said. “I’m quite happy that Sarah has been promoted to superintendent at Hammocks Beach,” he said. “She is a knowledgeable environmental educator and experienced in coastal resource management. Her commitment to the environment will ensure that the best interest of the park and its natural resources will be well looked after.”
Donnelly, like Bland, was pleased, and said it was very unusual for someone to rise through the ranks from seasonal employee to superintendent at the same park. “Usually you have to move around,” he said. “There’s no doubt that Sarah knows Hammocks Beach. We have an excellent team in place.”
Kendrick is very interested in resource conservation and education and interpretation, Donnelly said, and will likely continue the successful partnerships the park has had with groups like the federation, the Swansboro Rotary Club and the Swansboro Area Chamber of Commerce, with local governments and with the Friends of the Hammocks and Bear Island, the park’s volunteer support group.
“With the new property the park has acquired and with all of those partnerships, it’s going to be very interesting to see what becomes of Hammocks Beach,” Donnelly noted. “It’s definitely and up-and-coming park in the state system as we all move into the parks system’s centennial year.”
Planning for the use of that new property will be a key; David Pearson, who heads the Friends group, has said he wants area residents and other users to be involved in the master planning process, which he hopes will yield trails, camping areas and a boat ramp.
Donnelly noted that the park is also acquiring Dudley Island, which totals about 450 acres. The island in middle of Bogue Inlet adds significant marsh habitat and scenic beauty to the park.
So it’s a period of great growth and excitement all around, and Kendrick shares the feeling.
“I feel capable,” she said. “I’ve been here 10 years and I know the park, and I think with the great team we have, I can hit the ground running.”
This story is provided courtesy of the Tideland News, a weekly newspaper in Swansboro. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Tideland to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest about our coast. You can read other stories about the Swansboro area here.