“We’ve tried to use the park to help bring economic development here,” Bradbury, 53, who has managed the park since 1997, said. “If you’re someone looking for a place to start a business or industry, quality of life of an area means a lot, and Shawnee State Park has that to offer.”
The park, covering 1,168 acres and lying within the bounds of 63,000 Shawnee State Forest, offers an 18-hole championship golf course, a 107-site campground, 25 two-bedroom family cottages and a 50-room lodge. It has two lakes with fishing opportunities, a swimming beach, and rowboat, canoe and paddle boat rentals. There’s a marina on the Ohio River. The lodge offers a dining room and meeting rooms. There are miles of trails for backpacking or horse riding.
The park employs 38 people during peak summer months.
“We attract a lot of tourists from all over, but still the area is largely undiscovered,” Bradbury said. “You can drive one-half hour from downtown Portsmouth in any direction and have so many great attractions, including Wayne National Forest and Carter Caves State Park in Kentucky.”
Ohio’s 74 state parks now rank third in the nation in terms of usage, he said.
Earlier this year Bradbury rode his bike on a seven-week journey of 3,076 miles -- from the waters of the Pacific Ocean in Washington State to the doorstep of his Scioto County home near Henley, off Thompson Hill. He came through Glacier National Park, across the Cascade Mountains, across Montana.
“I saw some beautiful country, but none more beautiful than what we have to offer right here,” he said.
Shawnee State Park began as Theodore Roosevelt State Game Preserve in 1922. At one time, in the 1930s, there were three Civilian Conservation Corps (three C camps) operating within the confines.
Bradbury began his 31-year career with the state at one of those camps in 1978 as a building maintenance superintendent. He came to Shawnee State Park as assistant manager over maintenance in 1992.
Pat Crabtree was manager but became ill and left after one year. Jan Faffer took his place, but left on disability after about one year.
“I became manager after Jan left, in 1997, and have been here ever since,” Bradbury said.
All 74 of Ohio’s state parks operate on a total annual budget of $35 million.
“Ohio has a population of about 11 million people, so that means they get the state parks for just over $3 a year per person. And that’s a bargain any way you look at it,’ Bradbury said.
Shawnee brings in fees about three-fourths of the $1.5 million it gets from the state to operate on yearly.
“We’ve taken two cuts already this fiscal year, so we’re constantly looking at ways to operate in a business-like manner,” Bradbury said. “State parks in this area, including those in Kentucky and West Virginia, are among the last remaining parks in the country not charging admission fees. And I have never advocated charging the public fees to use their state parks.”
Badbury bought a small farm near Henley in 1980. His wife, Barbara, financial aid director at Shawnee State University, has no plans to retire just now.
They have three children. A son, Forrest, is finishing a doctorate in electrical engineering at Princeton University.
The middle child, Heather Coan, lives in North Carolina and is a graduate student at Wake Forest University
“She’s given us our first grandchild, Adeline, and I’m hoping retirement will let me see more of her,” Bradbury said.
The other son, Mason, graduated from Michigan State University last winter and is taking a break from graduate school by currently doing some organic farming on the family farm.
Bradbury said he doesn’t plan to hit the easy chair.
“I won’t take a full-time job, but I hope to do something useful,” he said. “Two years ago I went to New Orleans and helped the hurricane victims. I have all sorts of projects lined up to do.”
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.