Greenwood -- The historic lodge at Table Rock State Park has been renamed Gaines Lodge in tribute to the recently retired and highly accomplished director of the South Carolina State Park Service, Phil Gaines.
A native of Berea in Greenville County, Gaines left an indelible mark on the state park system over his 36-year career after helping the parks evolve into distinguished destinations of natural, cultural and recreational significance and finding operational solutions that moved the Park Service closer to self-sufficiency.
“Phil brought passionate leadership and unwavering commitment to the Park Service,” said Duane Parrish, director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, as he announced the name change at a special ceremony today. “He motivated teams of professionals to be innovative, find solutions, roll up their sleeves and work until they reached their goals.
“Like the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps who built the beautiful lodge at Table Rock, Phil’s enduring legacy will stand the test of time.”
Under Gaines’ leadership, the Park Service went from a system that generated $15.5 million in revenue and covered about 73 percent of its expenses, to one that generated $30 million that paid for more than 98 percent of its operational costs. He also oversaw a transformation in the park system that prioritized resource stewardship and customer service.
Gaines often spoke of his passion for parks, which emerged after spending his childhood at Table Rock State Park in Pickens County. As a child, he vowed to one day manage the park at the foot of the mountain.
After graduating from Clemson University, Gaines began his career in May 1982 as a park technician at Kings Mountain State Park. One year later he became the first park “superintendent” of the new Lake Wateree State Park. In 1985, when master planning was underway for Dreher Island State Park in Prosperity, he became the superintendent there, overseeing the planning of the park’s popular villas and construction of a new bridge near the tackle shop. In 1989, just two weeks after Hurricane Hugo struck, Gaines was promoted to manager of Santee State Park and spent his first year involved in clean up. After six years at Santee, Gaines was promoted to an Operations Specialist in the Park Service’s central office in Columbia, where he worked with a team of park veterans and planners on the “Vision for the 21st Century.” He began implementing a lot of the strategies in the plan, and in 2000, he was named Assistant Director. He became Director in 2005 and retired in August 2018.
“If I have any success, it is because of the park directors and park employees who served before and with me,” Gaines said. “I’m just an old park ranger who got lucky.”
His only regret, he says, is that he never became manager of Table Rock State Park.