CAPE CHARLES, Va. — Forrest E. Gladden III has officially hung up his campaign hat after more than 48 years of service at Virginia State Parks. Gladden, who started his career with parks in 1972, retired effective Feb. 1 from his final post as manager at Kiptopeke State Park, a position he’s held since 2011.
Gladden was recently presented with a certificate of recognition signed by Governor Ralph Northam in Kiptopeke State Park’s new visitor center by Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Stricter and Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde Cristman.
An excerpt from the proclamation reads: “…Whereas, 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 started his tenure as a wage employee at Hungry Mother State Park and gradually climbed to his leadership role serving at parks across the state. Smith Mountain Lake, Fairy Stone, First Landing, False Cape, Chippokes Plantation, Douthat and most recently, Kiptopeke State Park, all have benefited from Gladden’s unwavering commitment to the interpretation of Virginia’s natural resources.
Gladden is known for his dedication to educating the public through his development and supervision of the interpretive programming that provides guests with the opportunity to learn about the natural, cultural and historic aspects of the sites they visit. His desire to share that information and experience at Kiptopeke State Park led to the development of the Big Waters Visitor Center, which will open its doors to the public this summer.
While Gladden has moved on from his leadership role at Kiptopeke, he won’t be moving far. He and his wife, Susan Gladden, have built a home near the park. He plans to spend his time woodworking and relaxing on the Eastern Shore.