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Paul E. Gaberdiel,Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Eastern U.P. Rec-Spec Retires

By Jim Duke, contributing writer

During the past forty plus years since I rode my first snowmobile and soon after became involved in organized snowmobiling, I have been privileged to become acquainted with a good many individuals whose employment placed them in a position of management of sorts, within the snowmobile programs. Some were employed by the state Department of Natural Resources and some by the federal government, but regardless of their position they were there to work, at least in part, with the snowmobilers and serve in some manner to improve the trails system for the betterment of the program.

In most cases the relationship was one of mutual respect with interests in snowmobiling activities being the common fabric bringing us together, but occasionally it becomes one a little more personal, and in such cases the acquaintance becomes a friendship with someone who really and truly cares. I would like to think that over the many years I have known Paul E. Gaberdiel, we have developed not only a mutual working relationship, but a strong friendship as well, and when he finished his duties and retired on November 12th, he left a huge hole in the snowmobile program that the DNR will have a difficult time filling.

Paul is a fairly private individual and is usually reluctant to talk about himself, but his love of the great outdoors led him to take advantage of an employment opportunity back in 1987 and thus began his long-term position with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, lasting, buy my count, of some thirty-four years. He was hired as a forest fire officer and spent many years learning about fire suppression and training on how best to control them. He says preventing them in the first place is always better than battling them, and then working on the damage control.

Paul E. Gaberdiel,Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Paul on duty in the field at a controlled burn.

Working for the state wasn’t Paul’s first employment, however, he says between his high school graduation in 1976 from the Tahquamenon Area Schools and his achieving a Bachelor Degree in Forest Management Science from the Michigan Technological University in 1980, he had several short-term jobs such as over-the-road semi driver, worked for a while at Watson’s Marina in Curtis, and at Louisiana Pacific in Newberry.

As already stated, Paul began his career in 1987 at a Forest Fire Officer located in Seney at the Field Office and worked in that position until receiving a promotion to Forest Fire Officer Supervisor in 1998 and transferring to the Newberry Field Office. In 2001 he became Incident Commander for the Eastern Upper Peninsula Incident Management Team, better known simply as ICT3.

Over the years, Paul has gained experience with a large variety of forest fires, and says that none are ever the same, except for the extreme heat and the damage they cause. Partially because of this and his exceptional training record, he qualified as a Situation Unit Leader for out of state assignments & deployments since 2008.

Although he was involved with recreation programs to some degree during most of his career, he says his promotion to Forest Fire Supervisor back in 1998 at the Newberry Management Unit gave him the authority to manage a large recreation program including, but not limited to, campground operations, cross-country ski-trails and pathways, snowmobile trails and grant sponsors, and a roads & bridges program.

Paul E. Gaberdiel,Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Paul on his vintage Polaris, getting ready to race.

Rounding out his career. Paul was promoted to the Eastern U.P. Trails Specialist in 2015, a position he has held until his retirement. He says he was excited to take on the challenges that come with being a Trails Specialist and feels fortunate to have had this opportunity. He believes in the “Quality over Quantity” concept and tries to use it and a positive approach to every situation he is tasked with. When dealing with people, Paul says the positive approach inspires all involved to do their best and the results are almost always successful.

Paul says his retirement from the DNR doesn’t mean he will become a couch potato by any means. He plans to pursue his many hobbies a bit more aggressively and as often as possible. Those at the top of his list include snowmobiling, taking rides along local trails in his ORV, hiking, hunting, and fishing, so if he kept up with all of them equally, there wouldn’t be much free time for anything else. But he is also an active volunteer to the community and participates in that community service as an EMT for the Luce County Ambulance Corp, and he remains as the Fire Chief for the Columbus Township Fire Department so he will need to schedule his recreational endeavors around his community obligations.

Paul is, and always has been a snowmobile enthusiast, he rode his first snowmobile at the tender age of eight on an old 1967 Evinrude Skeeter and as soon as he got his first Polaris you could find him racing that machine at any event where he could qualify, and he was only twelve at the time. He and his Father had a family Polaris dealership from 1985 until 2000 when his Dad retired, but he still does snowmobile and ORV repairs from time to time and says he enjoys wrenching on them occasionally.

So as he finishes up his career with the state, he will still remain active in snowmobile and ORV activities and he says we haven’t seen the end of him… not by a long shot. Good Luck in your retirement Paul, you have definitely earned it. You have been a positive asset to the snowmobile community for many years.

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