After 48 Years, Forrest Gladden Retires From Virginia State Parks

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Newly retired Kiptopeke State Park Manager Forrest Gladden (right) receives a certificate of recognition from Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde Cristman (left) and Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler, in the park’s new Big Waters Visitor Center that opens to the public this summer. Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

By Stefanie Jackson – Kiptopeke State Park Manager Forrest Gladden has retired after a decade in his most recent position and a total of 48 years working at Virginia state parks.

He officially retired Feb. 1 but recently received a certificate of recognition signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, presented by Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler and Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde Cristman in Kiptopeke State Park’s new visitor center, a press release stated.

According to the proclamation presented to Gladden, the Virginia Division of State Parks will be   “forever indebted to his leadership that has set a high standard of excellence for countless current and future leaders.”

Gladden’s career with Virginia state parks began in 1972, when he became an hourly employee at Hungry Mother State Park in southwestern Virginia.

Gladden worked his way up into a leadership position and devoted his “unwavering commitment” to parks across the state including Smith Mountain Lake, Fairy Stone, First Landing, False Cape, Chippokes Plantation, Douthat, and finally, Kiptopeke.

Throughout his career, he showed his dedication to educating the public by developing and supervising interpretive programs that provide guests opportunities to learn about the natural, cultural, and historic features of the parks they visit.

Gladden will spend his retirement with his wife Susan Gladden near Kiptopeke State Park on the Eastern Shore in a home they have built, where he plans to spend time woodworking and relaxing.