Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Park Ranger Duties
This is the Fort Pulaski National Monument moat gator catching some rays. The NPS Ranger in the picture is my friend Talley. This picture dates from the mid-80's so you may not see a gator if you go there (Savannah, GA) today. Talley could imitate the distress "gwhonk" of a baby gator really well. When he did it, this gator would swim right up to him. Talley was an interpretive Ranger and may still be there ...I have lost touch with him.
When you go to a National Park and see a "Ranger", there's a good chance you are seeing someone who is a "Seasonal Ranger". Seasonal Rangers are hired during the peak season and then laid off during the slow season...kind of like teachers. At any park, the number of permanent career Rangers is usually low.
In the NPS Ranger world, there are basically 3 types of Rangers:
Interpretive Rangers are the friendly folks who take you on those interpretive talks, give campfire programs, and answer your many questions. Talley was an interpretive Ranger and one of the best I have ever met...Why? Because he loved history and it showed in every talk he gave, even the last one of the day. He had a sense of humor and great patience for the many questions (which he had all heard before) that park visitors asked. (yes, there are stupid questions, but we don't let the visitors know that...)
Resource Management Rangers are often behind the scenes and probably wearing dirt of some kind on their uniform and the NPS ball cap instead of the Smokey Bear Hat. They are out there stabilizing historical sites, trapping feral hogs, and doing controlled burns.
Law Enforcement Rangers are fully commissioned law enforcement officers. They are graduates of FLETC (see links to the right) and go through the same basic police training as Customs, Border Patrol, etc. Their job is protection of the visitor and the resources of the park. They write tickets, make arrests, all the usual cop stuff.
I did all of these roles in my time with the NPS. Some Rangers are specialists in one area only, but most are comfortable wearing many hats. From my experience, I would say people tend to specialize in one of these areas in larger parks and be more of a "jack of all trades" in smaller parks. My experience is also dated now since I have been something else for the last 16 years, but I bet the above is still true.
So, when you go to a park, be nice to the Ranger. She may be a teacher working her summer off as a Seasonal Ranger, or she may be a career Ranger with years of experience to share. Ask 'em, they'll tell you.
...and don't feed the bears, or litter, ....sorry, old habits.
Posted by R.Powers at 9:35 PM