Kiptopeke Gets New Manager and Visitor Center

Kiptopeke State Park’s new Big Water Visitor Center features educational displays like the one pictured above to inspire guests to explore the park and learn more firsthand about Eastern Shore ecosystems.

Submitted Article and Photo – Virginia State Parks recently announced Sean Dixon as Kiptopeke State Park’s newest park manager. Dixon has been at Kiptopeke serving as the assistant manager since January and filling in as interim park manager since the retirement of Forrest Gladden in February.

Assuming the role is a bit of a homecoming for Dixon, who began his career with Virginia State Parks at Kiptopeke in 2010 as a chief ranger. Since then, he’s worked at Belle Isle State Park in Lancaster, Va., and Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Huddleston, Va.

Also new this year for Kiptopeke is the Big Water Visitor Center, which officially opened its doors to the public this month. The visitor center features educational displays on the history of the Eastern Shore and the unique ecosystems the park preserves, as well as many of the pollinators and birds that rely on Kiptopeke’s unique natural resources and geographic location. A new 175-gallon saltwater aquarium also provides guests an up-close look at life below the surface of the Chesapeake Bay.

Outside the visitor center, guests can find a new performance stage repurposed from a wooden deadrise skiff—a traditional Chesapeake Bay work boat primarily used for harvesting crabs and oysters. The stage will be the centerpiece of the new amphitheater. Grounds at the visitor center will host an arboretum and wildflower plantings featuring species native to the Eastern Shore.

“Big Water Visitor Center has been a long time coming,” Dixon said. “Plans have been drawn to bring a facility like this to our guests since the park opened in 1992.

“The visitor center provides you a summary of everything the park has to offer. If something in particular catches your interest, we can then dive a little deeper into that subject and get you out to a place in the park where you can interact with it in the real world.”

Dixon grew up hunting, fishing, and camping. He received his bachelor’s degree in forestry and wildlife resources from Virginia Tech and graduated from the National Association of State Park Directors Leadership School in 2018.

Dixon’s excited to be back on the Eastern Shore and looks forward to sharing his love of the outdoors with his four grandsons, fishing on the bay, just as his father did with him.

For more information on the park, visit

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