David Shepherd of Estelline, S.D., was recently hired as the new park manager at Lake Thompson Recreation Area. Shepherd replaces John Christensen, who had been at the park since its inception. Shepherd holds a bachelor’s degree in natural resource law enforcement from South Dakota State University.
When asked how he chose his career path, Shepherd stated that he originally wanted to be a game warden or conservation officer; however, while completing a park manager internship at Lake Poinsett Recreation Area, Shepherd found that he really liked that role.
“I enjoyed the park side of things, and the parks kind of slow down a little bit in the winter,” said Shepherd. “That’s the big hunting time, so I had a little bit more freedom being on the park side of things than being on the conservation officer side.”
He also completed an internship at Wildlife Damage Management in Webster and Watertown before completing his degree. Shepherd applied for several park manager positions before accepting the position at LTRA.
“I think the big thing right now is just trying to get somewhat back to normal when the water goes down,” he said when asked what plans he has for changes or improvements to the park. “It’s kind of hard to plan projects and big things to do when you’re still recovering from last year’s water. Once we get it stabilized, I will definitely go forward with different plans.”
During his free time, Shepherd enjoys hunting and going to gun ranges, and he’s taking some gun courses to improve himself. Shepherd’s past experiences include being stationed in the United States and Japan, along with a deployment to Afghanistan as part of nearly 12 years of service with the United States Marine Corps. Shepherd looks forward to getting settled in at the park and becoming more familiar with the role of park manager.
“Living on site is kind of a double-edged sword,” said Shepherd. “You’re always here — that’s good and bad if you’re always here — but it does make it easier to go in the park and take care of things if I need to.”
In addition to a full-time park manager, LTRA employs a full-time maintenance technician. Seasonally, additional maintenance staff and campground attendants are employed. Due to budget cuts at the state level, the park is working with fewer staff this summer. However, the number of people visiting the park is up from last summer.