by TANIAH TUDOR
Press Argus-Courier Staff
A long-time employee with Arkansas State Parks will retire after 40 years with the department.
Ron Gossage, superintendent at Lake Fort Smith, is working his last week as an employee of the state parks department.
A retirement party is being held for Gossage Saturday from 2-4 p.m. in the dining hall at Lake Fort Smith. The party is open to the public.
Gossage began his time with the department working at Mount Nebo State Park while in college. He was hired for the training program in 1974, then became assistant superintendent at Lake Fort Smith later that year.
Living in Mountainburg and as a 39-year employee at Lake Fort Smith, Gossage said he never found a reason to go elsewhere.
"When I got the job and came to Mountainburg, the people were really nice; they accepted me," Gossage said. "I built a bond with the community."
Gossage felt comfortable with his position and never had a desire to look for work at any other park, he said. He became superintendent in 1978, and when the park closed at its old location in 2002 he helped to get the new park established, he said.
"I felt it was the place I was meant to be…kind of like I’d found home," Gossage said.
At the original location of the park - it moved to its current location in 2008 - Gossage’s office was connected to his residence, giving him more time with his wife and his son, Josh.
Gossage’s son, now a park ranger at Lake Catherine State Park near Hot Springs, grew up entrenched in nature and the culture of the park, making friendships with park employees and campers, Gossage said.
"Growing up, he probably made more acquaintances and friendships with them than I did," Gossage said.
But Gossage did build bonds with the campers, many of them families that returned to the park again and again, he said.
"Every day is different, unique, and every day is great," Gossage said of working at the park.
Watching those families grow and change, and his relationship with the other park employees, are some of the things he will miss during retirement, Gossage said. But he felt a need for change, he said.
"I’m going to miss it, but sometimes you just know the time is right," Gossage said.
Gossage’s last day will be Sunday, June 30. He plans to make a some vacation time, he said, and then possibly volunteer with the park or Mountainburg School District, where he served 11 years on the board.
"I’ve got some talents that they can be utilized somewhere and help somebody somehow," Gossage said.