State Park Manager Blazes Trails, Lights up Skies

By Kellie Goodman Shaffer

Dorothy Krupa is a woman of many interests.  On this particular day, she’s sitting at a table in Bedford’s new craft brewery, the Olde Bedford Brewing Company, located inside Fat Jimmy’s Outfitters in uptown Bedford. Dorothy is a home brewer, and she excitedly speaks with owner Dave Heller about joining him Sunday morning to brew a new batch of beer.   She also lends her expertise to planning the annual Olde Bedford Beer Festival.  This is just one place where she is warmly welcomed.

On a springtime Saturday, she’s volunteering at the Bedford County Sportsman’s Club, hanging drywall as part of a renovation project.  The men working alongside her are impressed. 

Secretary of the Bedford Sunrise Rotary Club, she takes attendance at a Tuesday morning meeting and coordinates the club’s Earth Day tree planting project, and signs up to marshal the next Rotary Race Series 5K.

Dorothy participating in the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce Business Showcase.

She works closely with the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce to promote state parks during events like the annual Women in Business Conference, Health and Wellness Symposium, and a series of career exploration opportunities for students of the region; Shawnee State Park also hosts the annual Bike Bedford County cycling event, as well as the ongoing list of fundraising walks and other activities for local non-profits.

The more you get to know Dorothy, the more you appreciate how easily she works with others.

“I enjoy contributing to the community,” she said. “It’s important to promote our state parks, but there is also personal satisfaction in giving back.”

Dorothy came to Bedford County in 2012, hired as manager of the Shawnee-Blue Knob state park complex. DCNR Secretary Richard Allen cited her public relations skills, which shined at Presque Isle State Park in Erie County, as well as her “wealth of management experience and strong enthusiasm for public enjoyment and appreciation of the outdoors,” when announcing the hire. 

Krupa oversees more than six thousand acres of park land at Blue Knob, Pennsylvania’s highest skiable mountain, and works with a concessionaire who operates the ski resort, drawing more than 300,000 visitors to the park each year. 

The complex is headquartered at Shawnee State Park, comprised of nearly 4,000 acres anchored by Shawnee Lake and a host of modern recreational facilities.  More than 350,000 people visit Shawnee each year, including ten thousand or more during the annual Fireworks on the Lake, presented by the Friends of Shawnee, a program championed by Krupa to showcase the park and the community.

“Dorothy makes all of the Friends of Shawnee programs possible,” said chapter chairperson Mary Griffith, who helped launch the Friends group in 2011.  “It would be easy to run into road blocks when we come up with new ideas and programs, but Dorothy paves the way.”

Krupa began her DCNR career in 1992, working as a seasonal park ranger at Canoe Creek State Park complex in Blair County, and later at Lyman Run in Potter County.  Other posts included management positions at Chapman State Park (Warren County) and Presque Isle (Erie), the most-visited park in the Commonwealth.  But her love of the outdoors started as a child.

A native of Philipsburg and graduate of West Branch High School, Dorothy’s father worked in mining and carpentry; her mother was a homemaker. Along with her brother, Dorothy’s Dad taught her to shoot a .22, taking target practice at cans in the backyard.

“My parents gave us a strong work ethic,” said Dorothy. “They showed us that if you work hard you can do whatever you want.”

After graduation, Krupa worked jobs in local factories: one produced cigars, another television tubes.  Then she enlisted in the US Air Force, knowing it was a path to a college education.  As a law enforcement specialist, Dorothy rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant E5, serving at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia as well at RAF Greenham Common in England.

“That’s where I learned to like better beer,” she says, laughing, adding that she gained an appreciation for stouts, ales and porters.

“The military also allowed me to see parts of the world I would never have seen and to meet a variety of people from all walks of life.”

After four-and-a-half years in the Air Force, Dorothy studied at Penn State Altoona, then University Park, earning a degree in wildlife conservation.  That, along with her military experience pointed her toward a career as a park ranger, a male-dominated field even today.

After a few years serving in seasonal park ranger positions, she recognized the opportunity to train as a park manager, leading her to gain experience in a number of Pennsylvania State Parks before taking over the large complex she manages today.

“I like the variety of things I get to do in this career,” said Dorothy, “Management, the business end of the parks, budgets, but also creating a great facility and experience for visitors to the park.”

Dorothy gives instructions at Friends of Shawnee’s First Day Hike.

Under her leadership, Shawnee and Blue Knob State Parks are thriving.  The Friends of Shawnee work closely with Dorothy to present an array of innovative programs, including Arts in the Park art exhibits, concerts and movie experiences sponsored by a grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.  The Friends of Shawnee sponsors a First Day Hike, two Kids’ Fishing Derbies on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, and other events throughout the year.  They also supported the construction of a new amphitheater near the park campgrounds, sponsored by Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI.)

“Dorothy always says yes to supporting our service projects,” said Tina Molski, director of the REI distribution center in Bedford. “The park benefits, but Dorothy works with us to give our employees an amazing experience as well.   She appreciates relationships and understands that they are mutually beneficial, so just having that partnership is great. She’s just fantastic.”

The Friends group, a chapter of the non-profit Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation (PPFF) also participates in community outreach, often represented by Dorothy and other volunteers, at events like National Night Out, school career fairs, and the annual Home, Garden and Lifestyle Show, among others.  Their mission is to educate the public about the benefits of the state parks, encouraging residents and visitors to take advantage of the local treasure, while creating events and programs that appeal to the community. Their efforts led to Shawnee State Park being recognized as the PPFF State Park of the Year for 2017, nominated by REI.

“We are so proud of the State Park of the Year honor,” said Griffith, “nothing that we do would be possible without the cooperation of Dorothy.”

“It was such a special honor, it really was,” said Krupa. “It was especially great for our staff at the park to be recognized for all of their hard work to make the park everything that it is.”

Dorothy volunteers as part of Bedford County’s Outdoor Challenge committee .

When Dorothy began her career, there were few women in the roles of state park managers in Pennsylvania. Today, more and more women are finding career paths as park rangers, naturalists and managers.  By participating in school activities, she is providing a positive example for the next generation of leaders.  Shawnee State Park will host a county-wide career fair for 5th graders in May, exposing hundreds of elementary students to park occupations, as well as many other industries. 

“Being in a male-dominated field, you learn to work with people who have different viewpoints, and different egos,” she said. “You learn so much about people, and how to pay attention to each person, to react to mistakes and learn from them, and to give and earn their respect.”

As Dorothy looks toward retirement, she sees herself having more time to pursue her passions, including more home-brewing of beer.  But she also looks forward to more volunteering for organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

“Rotary has really opened my eyes to opportunities to help people,” she said. “There are so many ways to be involved and make a difference.”

Those who work in the community with Krupa would agree that she has already made a difference.  That may be best on display June 30th as thousands of families enjoy the 6th annual Fireworks on the Lake celebration.  The park extends its hours after dark to allow for the special event, another product of Krupa’s outside-the-box, cooperative attitude.  Park-goers will enjoy a Jackson Monsour concert and can visit the 2018 Art in the Park exhibit prior to the 10pm pyrotechnic show.  Many watch the spectacle from the unique vantage point of boats floating and paddling on the lake. 

“The fireworks are a perfect example of Dorothy’s innovative spirit,” said Molski. “She’s evolving the state park to have a relationship with the next generation. The people who go to the fireworks have a great experience, and they come back, but she puts herself out there because it’s the right thing to do to get people to appreciate this wonderful resource in our community.”

As the fireworks burst in the night sky and reflect upon the water, they illustrate the effect of a little light in the darkness; just as one innovative and trailblazing park manager has made a lasting impact on her parks, her profession, and the community.

You can follow Friends of Shawnee on Facebook by clicking here or visit their website here.

To read more from the Fifth Issue of Generations Magazine, click here.

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