Lake James Superintendent Promoted to District Chief

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Sean McElhone

Lake James State Park Superintendent Sean McElhone recently accepted the top spot in North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation’s West District. The move puts McElhone in charge of the oversight of 11 state parks seven state natural areas, including his old stomping grounds at Lake James State Park.

Before his appointment to park superintendent at Lake James in 2007, McElhone served in a similar role at Fort Fisher and as a ranger at Hammocks Beach and Jones Lake state parks. He started his career with the division in 2000 as an intern at Mount Mitchell State Park.

Announcing McElhone’s selection, NC Division of Parks and Recreation Chief of Operations Mike Lambert stated, “Sean’s diverse experience as superintendent and his dedication to the state parks system’s mission give him an excellent background to meet the challenges and exciting opportunities for our parks system in the West District.”

“It has been a fantastic experience to be a part of the ongoing improvements and development at Lake James for the past 5-1/2 years,” said McElhone. “I am incredibly proud of the work the park staff has done and grateful for their dedication and sup- port. These are very exciting times at Lake James as we continue to expand upon the recreational opportunities, educational experiences and sound management practices that are part of the park’s master plan. I look forward to working closely with the next superintendent here and at all of the parks in the West District to meet the needs of our patrons – the citizens and visitors of North Carolina.”

During his tenure, McElhone guided the development and opening of the park’s Paddy’s Creek Area; a project that began with the state legislature’s approval to purchase more than 3,000 acres in Burke County. Today, the Paddy’s Creek Area boasts approximately six miles of hiking trails, a 700-foot swim beach, picnic sites and shelters and LEED certified bathhouse and office building. Additionally, over the course of the next several years, Lake James will offer almost 15 miles of mountain bike trails and new tent and boat-access-only campsites.

“On behalf of my family, I’d like to thank the community for welcoming us and supporting the park with such enthusiasm,” McElhone continued. “The Friends of Lake James State Park deserves special recognition in that respect. I anticipate great things coming to the park thanks to the interest and hard work shown by the Friends group.

Friends of Lake James State Park president Greg Norell spoke for the group when he congratulated McElhone on his advancement. “We are excited at the new opportunities for Sean in his recent promotion to West District Superintendent,” said Norell. “This is not only a monumental personal achievement for Sean, but more importantly, a significant reassurance to the people of this region that we have an energetic, young professional in a leadership position who is committed to long term park preservation. Sean’s ability to balance fiscal responsibility while maintaining high quality standards with his staff at Lake James State Park during a time of massive budgetary cutbacks clearly exhibits his capability in managing the 11 state parks in our region.

The transition for the Friends of Lake James State Park will be seamless as we continue to work closely with Rangers Clay Veasey and Nora Coffey, who will take care of day to day operations on a interim basis during the formal search for a new park superintendent.”

NewsLeslie Young