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New leadership at Gulf and Meaher State Parks

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) announced that Matt Young of Gulf Shores, Alabama, has been named Southwest District Superintendent for ADCNR’s State Parks Division.

In addition to managing daily operations at Gulf and Meaher state parks, Young will work closely with State Parks staff and community leaders to strengthen local partnerships and promote both parks as world-class vacation destinations.

Young said he is honored for the opportunity.

“As a frequent visitor to Alabama’s State Parks, I know firsthand what a dedicated staff they have,” he said. “I am grateful to Director Lein for providing me with this opportunity to lead such a talented team. I look forward to serving one of the best state park systems in the country and strengthening the local partnerships that benefit Gulf and Meaher state park guests.”

Prior to joining the ADCNR’s State Parks Division, Young served as Assistant Director of Recreation and Cultural Affairs for the City of Gulf Shores where he supervised department staff, oversaw the operation of public beaches and other recreational facilities, developed partnerships with local and regional organizations and businesses, and helped develop and implement the city’s parks and recreation master plan. Young has also served as Commissioner of the City of Gulf Shores Planning Commission since 2019.

Young earned a Bachelor of Science in anthropology from the University of Arizona and a Master of Science in recreation and park administration from Eastern Kentucky University. Originally from California, he has lived in Gulf Shores since 2015.

“We are excited to have Matt as Southwest District Superintendent for our State Parks Division,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this position. We look forward to the benefits his leadership will bring to these parks.”

Young joins the Alabama State Parks Division as Gary Ellis, Gulf State Park’s Director of Community Relations and Administration, retires.

Ellis served as community liaison for Gulf State Park since 2019 until retiring in June 2022. During his tenure, he helped coordinate the establishment of a world-class lodge at the park, assisted in the planning for new park amenities and worked to position the park as an international ecotourism destination.

“Gary has been a key player in our modernization efforts at Gulf,” said Greg Lein, State Parks Director. “He helped paved the way for many future improvements at the park. We thank him for his service to the state of Alabama and wish him an enjoyable retirement.”

Throughout his career, Ellis provided leadership to organizations across the Southeast, including founding hospitality-focused Compass Media, and co-founding the Coastal Resiliency Coalition and the Gulf United Metro Business Organization. Ellis is a member of the Alabama Hospitality Hall of Fame and received the Alabama Governor’s Tourism Award in 2009.

“I’ve been fortunate to serve the people of coastal Alabama for more than 45 years,” Ellis said. “As a lifelong resident of Gulf Shores, I have dedicated my career to promoting the area as a great place to visit while encouraging environmental sustainability. I am grateful for the opportunity to have done so with Alabama State Parks.”

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