Park Manager Nathan Maiwald
Living, Laughing and Loving His Job
Born and raised in California, Nathan Maiwald traveled throughout the country as the son of a United States Marine. Though he didn’t know it at the time, it was the frequent moves of military life that would make it easy for him to later adapt to life as a park ranger with the SC State Parks Service (SCSPS).
City, county, state and national parks were frequent stops for the family as they traveled cross-country. “It was through these experiences growing up that I fell in love with the outdoors and the natural beauty of these areas. While visiting parks is fun, educational and rewarding in so many ways, I realized that nothing could be more rewarding than visiting them every day as a career,” Maiwald said.
When the family retired to Myrtle Beach, SC, Maiwald attended Coastal Carolina University and earned a degree in Parks and Recreation.
In college he completed several practicums, volunteer hours and internships at nearby Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet. “Here I fell in love with the idea of becoming a park ranger, but more specifically, a ranger in South Carolina,” he said.
He began his career at Huntington Beach as an assistant ranger and was later hired full-time as a park manager assistant. This was followed by a promotion to Santee State Park as a senior ranger.
A promotion to manager has sent him to three parks during his nine-year career – Aiken, Calhoun Falls and Santee.
Responsibilities since joining SCSPS include managing the parks cultural and natural resources, overseeing fiscal resources through expenditures and revenue collection, and supervising anywhere from two to 25 employees, depending on the park’s size. “I also work with park staff to provide the best service we can, striving to improve the quality of experience for each visitor whether it’s through education, interpretation or recreation,” Maiwald said.
College education provided the knowledge and skills Maiwald would one day need to oversee all aspects of a park’s operation. With most of his curriculum experiential learning, he was able to go out and use the parks as a classroom.
At this point in his career, Maiwald said that he is most satisfied knowing he makes a difference.
It’s a wonderful feeling to know that no matter what position you hold in SCSPS, you are making a difference by providing an awesome experience for current generations as well as taking steps to protect and maintain natural and cultural resources for generations to come.
In the interim Maiwald is enjoying his chosen career path and all that comes with it. He recalls riding around the park with one of his rangers on a day so hot you could fry an egg on the asphalt. As they drove through the campground some people were fanning themselves, some sat under awnings for shade while others swam in the lake to keep cool. “But I will never forget coming around the bend and seeing something I’ve never seen before in my life,” he chuckled.
“The site of it at first made me laugh so hysterically that I nearly wrecked our truck into the tree. There it was, a 12 x 12 tent that would put any other to shame. But this was no ordinary tent.
Stretched from its window across the ground was about 20 feet of A/C duct work with the other end attached to a 10,000 BTU air conditioning unit.
Once I regained my composure and was able to speak, I told the camper they had the right idea,” Maiwald said.
“The camper turned in reply and said ‘my wife is not really the roughing it type.’”
With the laughter comes the pain.
And Maiwald’s experienced that as well when there’s an accident or death to a park employee or visitor. “When you’re involved with the family and recovery of the victim, that is very difficult and not easy to overcome,” he said.
Although Maiwald has worked at a number of state parks, he enjoyed his time at Aiken State Natural Area the most. “As a ranger or manager, we wear so many different hats on any given day. At Aiken, you had to wear every hat every day but could slow down the pace because the park wasn’t as busy as other parks I’ve worked,” Maiwald said.
Would he encourage others to become a park ranger?
“Being a ranger is often referred to as a lifestyle and not a job. But if you want a job where you can make a difference, the outdoors is your office, educating and teaching people the importance of our resources on a daily basis and generally getting the opportunity to do something different every single day, then a career as a park ranger would be a fulfilling and rewarding choice,” he said.
“I live my job, I get to laugh on my job and most importantly, I love my job.”