Mark Tjosaas began working at Fort Ridgely in May of 1982. This February he decided to call an end to his long career of park manager at Fort Ridgley.
Previously Mark had been the assistant manager from 1982 until August of 1997 and took on the title of manager from 1997 until his retirement.
“I was responsible for all personnel decisions, budget requests and spending, public relations, and the maintaining of the grounds and facilities, Mark said. “My day to day involvement was focused on all aspects of the management of the golf course, the monitoring of the maintenance of the facilities and grounds and making spending decisions for all aspects of the operation.”
Mark began his career working as a laborer at Upper Sioux Agency State Park in 1969.
“At the time I had no visions of making parks a career even though my father was a park manager,” Mark explained.
He spent most of 12 years working at Upper Sioux and somewhere in that time realized there was a future with State Parks.
“I was drawn to the position at Fort Ridgely for two reasons; First it was a year around position–my previous positions had been seasonal; And second, it was close to both my wife’s and my family.”
Mark said that one of his most memorable moments was when he received the phone call from his then supervisor, offering him the job as manager at Fort Ridgely.
“While not unheard of, the opportunity to advance from assistant to manager without having to change locations was quite rare,” Mark explained. “Not having to relocate my family and leave a facility I loved was quite a relief.”
Another memory Mark has was when the contract was let for rebuilding the golf course. He mentioned it had been a long struggle to overcome many obstacles, including a fair amount of opposition from several areas of government, to actually realize the project would go forward.
“That project was a testament to the involvement of the Friends of Fort Ridgely and their resolve to overcome numerous obstacles to see this historic feature of the park upgraded,” he said.
Mark recalled that there were many quite evident changes in the park over his 30 year tenure.
He said the golf course went from sand greens to artificial turf, to a complete rebuild including natural grass greens and full irrigation. The horse riders camp moved from an area east of the creek, to the site just west of the historic site and finally, to its present location at the former Valley View campground.
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“This was facilitated by a boundary expansion and allows the park to offer new amenities like a shower building, rental box stalls, and electric and water service at each site,” Mark explained.
In addition, substantial portions of the park were planted with prairie species and/or enhanced by burning and other vegetative management activities to bring the park closer to meeting the goal of restoring the pre-settlement landscape.
Mark said aside from the physical changes the park has undergone, a great many changes have taken place which may not be apparent to the general public.
“The condition and type of equipment we have now are vastly better than when I came to Fort Ridgely,” Mark recalled.
With the advent of new technology, also came an avalanche of paper work.
“The administrative load has increased exponentially, especially in the last 10 years or so. Much more staff time is needed to complete forms, document problems and successes and generally deal with the need for more accountability.” Mark explained. “On the positive side, a great deal more flexibility has been granted which allows for more interaction with community organizations, such as chambers of commerce, and legislators. This has brought a great deal more respect for both the positions at the park and for the role of organizations in the promotion and appreciation of the park.”
Working with many people in the various organizations in the area communities will be what Mark misses most in his retirement.
“I have gotten to know so many people in a professional setting and will miss those interactions. While we are not leaving the area, those relationships will not be the same,” Mark said. “I will also miss the day to day dealings with the staff. We had a great staff at Fort Ridgely.
Mark’s immediate plans in retirement is to work at the Mayflower Golf Course.
“I am very appreciative of the opportunity to work so close to home. Beyond work I hope to play more golf and spend as much time as possible with our daughter, son-in-law and their two kids,” he said.
The Friends of Fort Ridgely hosted an Open House Retirement Party for Mark at the Mayflower Golf Club on Saturday April 6.