“Rangers just sit around all day in the woods” “Rangers just clean bathrooms!” “My tax dollars pay your salary!” What do you mean I can’t run naked on the trails??”
A park ranger’s job is never done. From replacing toilets to rescuing sea turtles find out what it’s really like to be a park ranger.
“Who’s going to tell me that?” you ask. Well, I am. My name is Rachel and I’ve been a park ranger for 11 years. I live and work in the beautiful state of Florida and think I have one of the best jobs on the planet. The first thing you should know about being a park ranger is that this is one of the few jobs in the world where there’s virtually no line between work and personal life so by default if you read this blog expect to read about both. I can’t guarantee you’ll be particularly enamored by either but I can guarantee some good photos, a few laughs and a lot of head scratching over the antics of your fellow park visitors.
So how did I get here? Well after graduating high school back in the 90’s I had my heart set on a career in law enforcement. I spent a brief time doing that before I was smacked in the face by the cold wet reality that I made a pretty sucky cop. I spent a few weeks wallowing in self-doubt feeling sorry for myself and thinking that for the rest of my life my most uttered phrase would be “do you want fries with that” before finding an open position in a program called AmeriCorps. This program gathered a group of people together and sent them to various state parks in Florida to do projects that, because to budget or staff constraints would not have otherwise gotten done. Besides the parks getting some free labor we got the opportunity to see some beautiful places and get a fantastically accurate glimpse in to the life of a park ranger.
The program lasted a year and several of my cohorts found jobs within the park service, including me. My first home base was a state park in South Florida where I spent time assimilating into a very distinct and unique work culture and learning the fine art of things such as cleaning a bathroom in a busy campground in 10 minutes, replacing stand pipes backed over by snowbirds driving 50 ft camping trailers and explaining to people why they actually needed to pay an entry fee to come in to the park. After a year I was offered the chance to move into park housing. Park housing is a house (or trailer) provided at no cost to you by the state with the stipulation that you be available when needed for after-hours emergencies. It means you get to live on the park for free which is a tremendous perk. I stayed for another 4 years before moving on to my next assignment.
Like in most jobs there are several levels of career advancement you can pursue starting with your basic, run-of-the-mill-boots-on-the-ground-park-ranger all the way up to a park manager running a huge park. So, when I left my first park I bumped up a level, followed 6 months later by bumping up another level to where I am now. I’ve been at my current park for about 6 years and I may be biased but I think it’s one of the best park’s we’ve got.
If you’d like a basic explanation of park rangering without all the fluff of actually having to read my blog see the FAQ’s tab. Otherwise read on and feel free to comment or ask questions when you feel the urge to do so. Please note that as demigod of my little blogsphere I reserve and will exercise the right to remove any post which I think others may find offensive or any post which incriminates or will cause problems for any of my fellow rangers or myself.