Burnsville Lake in central West Virginia may be small, with 900 to 1000 acres of water
depending on the lake level, but with a man like Rick Pingley leading the program, its
recreation offerings are substantial and popular with West Virginians.
A life-long West Virginia native, Pingley has held his Resource Manager position since the
1980s, when he left his teaching position and returned to nearby Sutton Lake as a ranger. He
had spent summers at Sutton in temporary positions, so when he decided in 1982 to change
from teacher to Park Ranger, he was prepared to assume the role. In 1995, he was selected as
Resource Manager at Burnsville Lake, a position he holds to this day. He maintains that even
though he could have retired in 2008, he plans to continue working.
Pingley oversees the operations of Burnsville Lake's many recreation offerings. Burnsville's
13,000 rolling, wooded acres in a quiet part of the state draw hunters and anglers from all over
the state in all seasons, accounting for a large percentage of the projects 750,000 annual
visitors. Boaters and cyclists round out the projects visitors.
In the spring and summer, fishing is a popular sport at Burnsville Lake. Fishing
organizations such as BASS and others hold as many as 25 fishing tournaments a year,
drawing hundreds of anglers.
Meanwhile the project's two campgrounds, Riffle Run and Bulltown, have significant occupancy
in the spring and fall as hunters try their luck with the local wild turkeys in springtime, and deer
in the fall.
Pingley oversees the rangers who serve as caretakers of a working 19th century village that
includes a church, three houses, a barn, springhouse, granary and outhouses. Visitors can get
a feel for West Virginia pioneer life by visiting the historic village.
The village was the site a small Civil War skirmish in the fall of 1863 when William Lowther
Jackson, Stonewall Jacksons cousin, led a raid of 800 men to capture the fort at Bulltown from
Union soldiers who were camped there. Every two years around Columbus Day, the project
hosts a reenactment of this "Battle of Bulltown" that draws hundreds of participants and
spectators from nearby states. The event is sponsored by the Corps in partnership with local
reenactment units, and includes soldiers drilling, artillery demonstrations and, since re-
enactors remain in character and in uniform all weekend, a presentation of the everyday life of
a Civil War soldier. The main battle reenactment takes place on Sunday.
Rick also oversees the management of an interpretive center at the Historic Village, and
over the years he has adjusted its operations to save costs but still retain quality service for
visitors. Contract workers once staffed the center at an annual cost of $43,000 per year, but
Rick reduced those costs by bringing in volunteers, temporary workers and students from the
Student Conservation Association. By cutting these costs, Pingley was able to justify hiring a
full time Interpretive Ranger, who oversees the management of the center and the Historic
Village along with coordinating the water safety program for Kanawha Area.
In light of ever-tightening budgets, Pingley is grateful for the volunteers who assist with
performing the mowing, cleaning and park attendant services in order to provide a quality
camping experience for his visitors. Volunteers even mow the lawn at the project office and
perform all services at Riffle Run Campground that are normally contracted, including mowing,
cleaning, and host services. Other activities that Pingley assigns to volunteers include tending
to minor maintenance issues, fixing leaking faucets, repairing broken tables and the like.
Volunteers free up the Corps maintenance team to tend to more critical issues. In total,
volunteers provided 13,179 hours of time to the project in 2014, the equivalent of six full-time
employees, with a value of nearly $300,000.
Pingley also promotes the parks recreation activities to nearby residents. In 2014, one of his
rangers partnered with a sister project in an adjoining division to staff a booth at the National
Hunting and Fishing Days, where they made more than 10,000 contacts.
Pingley hails from nearby Randolph County, West Virginia, and he graduated from Glenville
State College with a degree in Math Education in 1973.
Pingley says about his job, "I feel privileged to work at a project like Burnsville, with an
organization like the Corps. The team I have at Burnsville Lake is one of the best in the
country, and that makes going to work enjoyable."