By Nathan Baker
Even with the excitement of Indian attacks and colonial marches as commonplace occurrences, Jack Merryman says the favorite part of his job the past three decades at Sycamore Shoals State Park are the “park people.”
“It’s more the employees than it is the visitors,” Merryman said, reclining on a sofa in the park’s main lobby.
“It’s the people I’ve been able to work with, the managers, the other employees; everybody likes their job, so you don’t dread going to work. You get to go in, see your friends and have a good time.”
Now, after 35 years working at Tennessee’s state parks, Merryman said he’s ready to retire from his position as maintenance supervisor.
“I’m actually starting to get excited about it,” he said of his retirement at the end of April. “I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time, but it’s getting so close now that I’m ready to go.”
Merryman got his start at Roan Mountain State Park in 1977, when he was 20 years old.
He said after a skiing trip to Beech Mountain, he stopped at a roadside store for some refreshments and heard the park was hiring.
“I stopped by and put in my application, got an interview and they said I was hired,” he said. “Thirty-five years later, here we are, getting ready to start a new chapter.”
For three years, he served on the maintenance crew in Roan Mountain before he was transferred to the park in Elizabethton.
On his final day at the Roan Mountain park, he felled the first tree in the area that would eventually become the rental cabins and the snack bar.
He started at Sycamore Shoals in general maintenance, a catch-all title that covers everything from mowing the grass to making repairs on replica frontier architecture.