Park boss retires after 28 years

Scott Schulte was the longtime superintendent of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
Thursday, April 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:55 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Scott Schulte knows a lot about how nature works. At his farewell luncheon Wednesday, he noted how well fertilized his money tree, a going-away present from friends in and out of the Missouri state park system, must have been.

After 28 years with Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, superintendent Scott Schulte has retired. More than 40 people, including park workers and friends from all over Missouri, came to say goodbye.

Six months ago Schulte was hesitant about retirement, but now he is confident and ready to move on, he said.

“It’s going to be a different stage in my life,” Schulte said. “I’ve got different things I want to do. I hope it will be as fulfilling as this has been.”

Among the people at the luncheon were state park employees who got their start with Schulte at Rock Bridge. Schulte said he’s enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to their success.

Old friends say goodbye

Debbie Newby, superintendent at Finger Lakes State Park, got her start with Schulte at Rock Bridge, where she worked for 3½ years. She said he taught her everything she needed to know about the park system.

“I just remember his knowledge of so much stuff at Rock Bridge State Park, stuff that other people don’t even know about today,” Newby said. “I admire his knowledge.”

Frank St. Clair, district supervisor for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said he will miss Schulte’s expertise the most. He said it wasn’t until Schulte arrived at Rock Bridge that he became aware of how special the park is.

Nancy Masterson, parks superintendent at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton, started working in the parks system around the same time Schulte did. She said it was a “bare bones” operation in the 1970s, and she has seen many additions since then.

“The interesting thing about Scott is that he has managed this facility for so many years,” St. Clair said. “He put things in place and has actually seen them come to pass.”

Jane Lale, a natural resources manager for the natural resources department in Jefferson City, has known Schulte for 25 years. She said she’s impressed with how he’s preserved the area, especially the Devil’s Icebox cave.

“He brings the cave alive for a lot of people,” Lale said. “He’s dedicated.”

Cave tours a highlight

Schulte and John Willenburg started “wild cave tours” in 1981. They had to do a lot of work with equipment, lighting, boats and establishing procedure, but it has resulted in a very popular program, Campbell said.

“Some say it’s an experience of a lifetime,” she said.

Schulte said some of his fondest memories at the park involve the cave, from finding a new entrance to watching park patrons discover its wonders.

“There is a sense of awe and discovery that you don’t have a lot of places,” Schulte said.

Schulte has several projects he plans to work on, such as writing a book and organizing his extensive collection of slides. He isn’t worried about missing his job.

“I won’t be missing the parks because I’ll still be enjoying them,” Schulte said.

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