He doesn’t wear a ranger’s campaign hat and he isn’t a licensed electrician or master carpenter like some maintenance mechanics, but in many ways, Michael Bowles and the team of seasonal workers like him are just as critical to the smooth operation of Lake James State Park. As the year comes to a close, Bowles is finishing his fourth season at Lake James. Part landscaper, part custodian, he epitomizes the hard work it takes to keep the park clean and tidy for the hundreds of thousands of visitors it receives each year.
“Working here on this beautiful lake is one of the best things about the job,” said Bowles, who has been a resident of McDowell County since he was a child. “It’s too beautiful to let trash lay around.”
With a daily “to-do” list that includes cleaning restrooms, picnic sites and the campground, as well as grass-cut- ting, weed-eating and pulling trash and recycling, there’s plenty of work to go around. “A lot of people don’t realize what goes into the upkeep of Lake James,” he said. “It’s a pretty big park.”
The long hours and physical toll are made worth it, however, when a visitor takes the time to notice. “When people tell one of us how clean the rest- rooms are or how clean the campground is; that’s always nice to hear. A lot of people have commented on the landscaping that’s been done around the Paddy’s Creek Area bathhouse, and that’s been a good team effort.”
The coming winter months are relatively quiet at the park, but when the weather turns warm again and folks start thinking about outdoor recreation, you can be sure a dedicated seasonal staff will be back on the job to make the experience that much more enjoyable.