Rarely do we find our passions early on in life. Sticking with that passion and making it a career is even rarer. For Vernon Gillum, Property Manager at Tippecanoe River State Park, there was never any question that he would find a career somewhere in the natural world.
“I always had an interest in working in some type of an environmental field. While I was at college, I was able to kind of test the waters at a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) property and found that I really enjoyed working there as a team with other people who had similar goals,” Gillum said.
Growing up, Gillum was always a lover of the outdoors. He recounts times camping, fishing, and enjoying State Parks as a child.
“I was always a person that was attracted to fishing and hunting whenever I had an opportunity,” Gillum said. “I enjoyed being able to visit DNR properties when I was younger. I have good memories of going to Turkey Run, Shades State Park and McCormick’s Creek State Park.”
Gillum can remember deciding in middle school that working with nature and parks was something he wanted to do. He took classes that would help him springboard that future career.
“I never wavered. I took classes in high school, like earth science and more. I felt like I could be more beneficial in the parks system if I knew auto mechanics and mechanical drawings and things like that,” Gillum said.
Focusing on his future career, Gillum received his Associates Degree in Law Enforcement and Conservation from Vincennes University. Wanting to finish a four-year degree, he then attended Ball State, where he received a degree in Natural Resources.
During his time at Ball State, Gillum’s career goals were cemented. He began working at Salamonie Reservoir during his summers off from college. On day one, he knew he had made the right career choice.
“Looking around at the people I was working with, I knew that they were professionals involved in wildlife management, trying to create great experiences for people in the outdoors, and trying to be caretakers of the environment. I was working side by side with some of those people and realized that it held a great attraction for me, right off the bat,” Gillum said.
For 30 years, Gillum worked in several state parks. From that first job at Salamonie Reservoir to Dunes State Park to Harmonie State Park, and now Tippecanoe State Park, he has enjoyed a long career with the DNR. He knows what it takes for a park to run smoothly.
Gillum understands the value a well-cared-for park can have in creating memories. He works hard to lead his team toward the goal of providing memorable experiences for visitors, as it is one of the ways he can give back and make a difference.
“We get to see people when they’re having some of the best times of their lives, camping and using our properties. They come here to have a good time and that’s always a good thing,” Gillum said.
With his wife, Gillum has traveled to several National Parks. He believes in the park system and how parks can add to the quality of life. He has spent years watching how the parks increase the joy in others’ lives, as well as his own.
“I just enjoy the atmosphere of our national parks. There’s so much to see that inspires you. I enjoy being a part of that,” Gillum said. “We can all live from day to day, but to actually enjoy life, and to have a better quality of life in general --we need those things that make everything better for us. What a sad existence we would have if we didn’t have these natural areas.”
Gillum is clearly an individual who has found his place in the world and is making a difference there. Take a trip to Tippecanoe State Park and see the wonderful work he’s been doing with his quality staff and team of volunteers. With so many things to offer, Tippecanoe has something for everyone.
“There are a lot of different things that would appeal to a lot of different people. You’ll never know for sure until you get here and see what we have to offer,” Gillum said.
To find out more information on Tippecanoe State Park, visit the website here.