Barrett Durst joined the Inks Lakes State Park crew in July as superintendent after working his way up through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department ranks with stops at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Choke Canyon State Park, Pedernales Falls State Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Lake Somerville State Park, and Guadalupe River State Park. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
New Inks Lake State Park Superintendent Barrett Durst knows his job trail has brought him to a jewel of Texas State Parks.
Durst came to Inks Lakes in July after the retirement of the previous superintendent, Corey Evans.
He has many responsibilities in his new position, but most important is to foster an appreciation for the outdoors in the park’s many visitors.
“We want to connect people to the resources to build our next stewards,” he said.
In Texas, between 93 percent and 97 percent of land is private property, he pointed out, making state parks prime destinations to experience its natural beauty.
As an avid outdoorsman, Durst is ready to help visitors find ways to enjoy themselves.
“I paddleboard, I hike, I mountain bike, I run, I hunt, so if someone approaches me and asks ‘What do you recommend?’ I not only have my experience as someone who knows the parks but also as someone who enjoys the outdoors,” he said. “Through my personal experiences, I can offer up some suggestions to help them.”
Durst can also draw on his wealth of knowledge from his career with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which includes stops at some of the most spectacular parks.
After graduating college, he was working for his family’s business and volunteering at Fredericksburg’s Admiral Nimitz Museum, which was part of the TPWD system at the time. Wanting a career in the outdoors and with wildlife, he asked museum staff the best route.
“Volunteer” was the answer.
He started volunteering at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and landed a paid job there in 2007 as a maintenance assistant. Later, he entered the park operations training program at Choke Canyon State Park, which led him to an assistant superintendent job at Pedernales Falls State Park outside of Johnson City.
While there, a mentor asked him “Do you want to be a rockin’ superintendent or a superintendent?” “Rockin’,” Durst replied. The mentor told Durst it was time to go west to Big Bend Ranch State Park.
At the age of 28, Durst became park superintendent of the 300,000-plus-acre behemoth, the largest state park featuring unique landscapes, cultural resources, and land — lots of land. He learned much about emergency response and search-and-rescue operations; however, the park lacked visitors due to its remote location. About 5,000 people pass through the front gate each year. In comparison, Inks Lake State Park draws about 240,000 visitors annually.
To grow into the park superintendent role, Durst decided he needed a more visitor-oriented experience. He took a pay cut and transferred to Lake Somerville State Park Birch Creek Unit and later Guadalupe River State Park and Honey Creek State Natural Area.
When he heard Evans was retiring from Inks Lake, he applied for the job at the top-tier park.
“It’s a great park from a geological standpoint. It’s one of two places you have public access to the lake. It has some amazing trails, and it has Devil’s Waterhole,” he said. “It has such a history going back to the (Civilian Conservation Corps). There’s so much here, we really don’t have to do anything to bring in visitors. But what we can do, and what I want to continue doing, is giving them opportunities in the park to help them connect with the resources. That way, they become our park stewards.”
While he’s in charge of the park, Durst knows it belongs to the people.
“Everyone is welcome here,” he said. “It’s their park, after all.”