“It has been a while, and I’m excited to be back because of the timing,” said Boggs. He was referring to the upcoming 50-year birthday of the park which was marked with special activities on June 5.
Boggs’ Noble County roots are deep, going back 160 years. His great-great-grandfather is buried in a small family cemetery in Green Township. His grandfather Thomas Boggs was a teacher at Wolf Lake High School.
A native of Green Township, Boggs grew up about five miles from Chain O’Lakes State park. He graduated from Churubusco High School and went to Ball State University where he thought he would study to become a teacher. However, his work experiences at Chain O’Lakes had instilled a love of the outdoors that kept calling him to a different career. During his college years, Boggs continued to work summers at the park, eventually advancing to a facilities operations position.
“I used to ride my bicycle from home to lifeguard at the park,” Boggs said. “I’d throw my bike over the fence and come in the back gate to go to work.”
After college, Boggs worked for the Chain O’Lakes Correctional Facility for about two years as recreation director. His next position was back at the park. When the assistant property manager position at Ouabache State Park near Bluffton became available, Boggs applied and was hired. In addition to property administration, maintenance, public relations and personnel management, the maintenance of an Olympic-size swimming pool and a 20-acre exhibit of American bison broadened the responsibility and experience.
Since 1987, Boggs has been assistant property manager at Pokagon State Park near Angola. In addition to normal activities, management of a toboggan track and cross-country skiing were among the special features there.
Pokagon has been his family’s home for 23 years. That is where he and his wife, Jill, raised their daughter and son. Their daughter is now married, and their son is a student at Ohio Northern University, Ada, Ohio.
Sam and Jill are in the process of moving from Pokagon to Chain O’Lakes. This will mean that Jill will commute to her job at Trine University where she is Director of Brand and Integrated Marketing.
As he settles into his new position, Sam has already come to recognize the benefits of having a well qualified and dedicated staff to support him.
“I am blessed to have a great staff,” Sam said. “I am really tickled to be here, and the staff has been receptive to my ideas.”
Exactly what are some of those ideas?
“There are lots of opportunities here,” said Boggs. “In considering pre-settlement conditions, there are lots of plants that weren’t native. Ridding the area of invasive plants is one project,” said Boggs.
“Wetlands reconstruc-tion might be another consideration,” Boggs noted. “I will also be looking for new recreational opportunities that are compatible with the resources here, and perhaps the restoration of cross-country skiing.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge Boggs and his staff will face is the impact of ever-increasing budget constraints.
“We are short staffed, and are using seasonal employees to fill the gaps,” Boggs said. “My goal is to maintain what we have, and continue the high level of customer service our visitors have come to expect.”
Boggs invites everyone to come out and enjoy what the park has to offer. The Chain O’Lakes State Park is a great place to fish, boat, canoe, camp or hike. Wildflowers and native animals abound. Beauty is everywhere. The added bonus is that it is right in our own backyard!
Boggs is also excited to know that there is a renewed emphasis on tourism in Noble County and hopes to be an active participant in partnering with the Noble County Convention and Visitors Bureau to help promote local efforts.
Boggs replaces the late Tom Sutton who died in his home at the park earlier this year.
“I was saddened at his passing,” said Boggs. “Tom and I had come up through the ranks at the same time, and I knew him well.”