Meet the Officers and Board Members

Friends of Gorges State Park, Inc.

Steve Pagano


Steve retired from North Carolina State Parks in May of 2018.  He began his career as a Ranger at Falls Lake Recreation Area in 1990 and was promoted to the first Park Superintendent of Gorges State Park in June 1999.  He holds an A.A.S in Forestry / Outdoor Recreation from Paul Smiths College and a B.S in Parks and Recreation Management from Slippery Rock University in PA.                

Since retiring Steve continues to serve on the Foothills Trail Conservancy Board.  He joined the Board in 2001 and has served in numerous positions including his current position as Chair.  Additionally, he assumed a new role on the Friends of Gorges Board after retiring where he now serves as the new President.

Steve and his wife Renee enjoy traveling across the country in their RV and spending time with their four children and five grandchildren who are scattered between Rochester NY, St. Louis MO and Thornton CO.  When not visiting family, they also volunteer with NOMADS, an RV volunteer group associated with the United Methodist Church.

Steve is excited to be the new Chair of the Friends of Gorges and looks forward to working with the new Park Superintendent and Park staff to continue to make Gorges The Crown Jewel of the North Carolina State Parks system.

Marianne Vines

Vice President

Marianne is Jackson County resident originally from Highland Park, Il. She is a retired youth director and a former owner of Adventure Depot which operated in Highlands, NC.  She remains active with the Highlands Chamber of Commerce. Marianne is also a Director of Faith Formation at St Jude’s Church and Our Lady of the Mountains.  An accomplished author of two outdoor books on hiking and mountain biking, she has lived full time in Western North Carolina for over 30 years. Marianne was re-elected to a two year term on June 24, 2021.

Linda Ives

Secretary | Audit Committee

Linda is a retired teacher of the blind and visually impaired. After retirement, she volunteered at a National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. This experience gave her insight into the demands of a gift shop and the need for educational information at the Park. She was also involved in developing and implementing an accessible trail at the refuge. She is pleased to share the information she learned from this project with Gorges State Park. Linda has been coming to the Cashiers area since she was a teen enjoying all the nature beauty and activities available. Linda was re-elected to a two year term on June 24, 2021. 

Cole Heddon

Governance Chair | Marketing Committee

Cole has been an outdoor enthusiast since childhood, when he camped with his parents and siblings most summers of his childhood across the US and Canada visiting most major National Parks and continued into the Boy Scouts of America. His love of the outdoors was further burnished while accompanying his father “into the woods” as part of his job as a career forester. Cole has spent his entire adult career in the Aerospace Industry beginning as a helicopter pilot in the US Army and rising to various executive level positions at several multinational corporations. He still flies his own plane and glider when time and weather permit. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and has an Executive MBA from the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University. Cole was re-elected to the board for a two year term on June 24, 2021.

Aly Pagano

Marketing Committee

Aly is a local to the WNC Mountains and has called Gorges State Park a second home her whole life. After moving to the area in ’98 when the park was started, Aly spent her entire childhood traversing these southern Appalachians, which provided the groundwork for her adventurous spirit in adulthood. Since graduating with a BS in Environmental Ecology from UNC Asheville, she has settled in Marshall, NC and continues to live and work with the land.

Today, Aly works as an assistant manager at a native plant nursery and takes joy in growing food for herself, her family, and her friends. While she continues to grow her earth skills repertoire, Aly is beyond grateful at the opportunity to play an active role in giving back to the mountains and the park that raised her. 

Brendon Voelker

Susan Banta


From her days as a newspaper reporter to working within government agencies, Chamber of Commerce and financial services, Susan retired after a 38-year career in public relations and communications in early 2022. It didn’t last long and she came out of retirement to work as a Seasonal
Staff member at Gorges State Park in the Visitors Center a few months later. 

 Susan has served on various boards and support organizations throughout her career (American Red Cross, United Way, Dress for Success Charlotte, etc.) and recently joined the Friends of Gorges Board of Directors. Susan and her husband Tim love spending time with their family and friends, especially their grandchildren, and hiking with them to adventures in the woods and visiting waterfalls wherever they can.

Bob Andrews

Ex Officio Board Member

Bob retired from Deloitte in 2009 after spending almost all of his 30+ year career in client service. He tackled complex, large-scale, integration programs where the most pressing challenges were often human, not technical, in nature. For a time, Bob served in the human resource function of Deloitte serving its partners, principals, and directors, both domestically and internationally.  Bob and his wife Micki are Founding Members of the Friends of Gorges State Park where Bob served as Board President from 2012 through April of 2021. 

Interested to join the board?

The Friends of Gorges State Park (FOG) is seeking 3-5 community minded individuals to join its Board of Directors.

FOG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt, tax-deductible public charity dedicated to supporting the Park and operates in accordance with the Memorandum of Agreement with the North Carolina Parks system.

The mission of FOG is to:

  1. Develop, encourage and promote public awareness of Gorges State Park of North Carolina
  2. Serve as a philanthropic volunteer organization for support of programs, development of facilities, and promotion of recreational facilities for Gorges State park
  3. Solicit, hold, and expend funds for such purposes
  4. Render assistance as requested by the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, Gorges State Park

The Friends group is exclusively nonprofit, charitable, educational and environmental. The Board of Directors of FOG is 100% voluntary and is currently made up of eight (8) individuals with a maximum of twelve (12). We normally have four Board meetings a year. Board members are expected to attend if able and participate in various volunteer activities at or for the park as their time and interests allow. To read about our current board members click here.  We seek additional committed members of the community to join our board and hope that you will consider joining us in this important work. Responsibilities include in-person/zoom meetings once every other month, active participation in a committee, becoming an advocate and ambassador for the Park.  The FOG Board operates in accordance with a set of bylaws that were updated and approved by the Membership in March of 2021. To view the current FOG Bylaws please click here.

Please contact us at for more information.