Managing the ‘Queen’ of the state parks

July 25, 2013

Editor’s Note: Recently West Shore Community College launched its new website (click here for site). In addition to being much more user friendly than the previous site, the new site features stories about people who have a connection to the college. In addition to my “day job” as the Editor-in-Chief of Mason County Press, I am also a freelance writer and photographer and also a member of the WSCC faculty, teaching photography. For those reasons, I had the honor of contributing to several of the stories that appear on the website. Below is the story of Jim Gallie. Jim and I attended West Shore together “back in the day” and I thought he was a perfect example of the type of people who have come from our college. 

gallie_thumbnailBy Rob Alway.

HAMLIN TWP. – Jim Gallie has one of those jobs that a lot of people dream of. He is the manager of the Ludington State Park.

“It’s really the perfect job,” Jim says. “I get to work where thousands of people long to be every year, where they vacation and visit. And, this is my job.”

Jim is a 1989 graduate of Ludington High School and attended West Shore Community College his freshman year of college.

When Jim was growing up his father, also Jim, was a conservation officer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. But, he never really thought too much about working for the DNR.

“I originally was a history major,” Jim said. “Then, during college I got a job at the Ludington State Park. I was hooked.”

After West Shore, Jim transferred to Coastal Carolina College in North Carolina and then to Michigan State University where he majored in resource development.

“Working at the Ludington State Park really changed my outlook,” he says. “I just really enjoyed working with the people, the visitors and the staff. I fell in love with the outdoors.”

After college he spent a few months working at the Ludington park part-time until a ranger position opened at Orchard Beach State Park in Manistee County. He worked there just over a year and was transferred to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the northwestern Upper Peninsula.

Porcupine Mountains is the largest state park in Michigan. It is 58,335 acres that borders on Lake Superior. It has four lakes, 90 miles of hiking trails, 26 miles of cross-country ski trails and 15 ski runs.

In the winter, Jim’s job was to ski the cross country ski trails for eight hours a day. In the summer he would hike five to 15 miles a day.

“My job was to check for park permits, illegal campsites, rehabilitate abandoned trails and just talk with park visitors.”

Jim worked in “the Porkies” for 10 years until budget cuts meant a change in location. He accepted a job as a supervisor at Bewabic State Park near Crystal Falls in the Upper Peninsula.

“That is a beautiful park that a lot people aren’t really aware of.”

After spending more than a decade in the Upper Peninsula, life’s priorities started to change. For Jim, it was a woman. His girlfriend was graduating from college and wanted to stay in the Lower Peninsula.

Once again, the perfect job opened up and Jim became manager of Charles Mears State Park in Pentwater. His girlfriend became his wife and accepted a teaching position for Pentwater schools.

“It worked out great that she was able to get a job right in Pentwater,” he says. They moved south of Scottville.

Jim had the Pentwater state park job for two years and then the crown jewel opened.

Ludington State Park has been nicknamed the “Queen” of the state parks in Michigan. It offers a diverse ecosystem and infrastructure that ranges from Lake Michigan shoreline, thick forests, a river, Hamlin Lake and Big Sable Lighthouse. It is also the busiest state park in Michigan.

For many years it was under the leadership of Mike Mullen, who mentored Jim back in his college days.

“It was a thrill to come back to Ludington and continue on Mike’s legacy,” Jim says. “This is the perfect job. I grew up here and the park was always a highlight of that childhood.

“Now, I am privileged to help make the park experience a positive one for a new generation.”

Gallie has been overseeing a lot of improvement projects to the park including the restoration of the historic 1935 Lake Michigan Beach House. The beach house was built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps, part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to help put Americans back to work.

One of the pieces of advice Jim was given by his mentor, Mullen, was to explore the park. “Mike would run miles of the park’s trails almost daily,” Jim says. “He said that was the best way to see what’s going on in the park and to learn it. I have recently taken up running and plan on doing the same.”

Jim and his wife, Annie, are avid outdoors enthusiasts. If they aren’t exploring the Ludington State Park on weekends they are generally exploring the outdoors somewhere else.

When they can’t be outdoors, they can often be found at the Wellness Center at WSCC. Jim says he is thankful for the education he received at West Shore and is thankful the college is in this community.

“I really learned to appreciate West Shore when I went to Michigan State,” he says. “The small class sizes at West Shore meant the professors were able to spend more time with me. There is so much value to that.

“One of my favorite professors was Leo Teholitz. He had so much knowledge and really challenged me.” Teholitz was a retired officer from the Central Intelligence Agency and taught humanities and philosophy.

“Mr. Teholitz really made me think outside the box. I am so grateful for the time I spent there.”

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