What do park rangers really do? It’s more than you think. Yes, they do get to wear a cool ranger hat and spend a lot of time outdoors. But what you may not know is it is a position held by highly-educated and trained individuals. Men and women who are passionate about their parks and are selfless in their quest to maintain and preserve the naturally wonderful spaces in North Carolina.
Park rangers see, hear, smell and sense all manner of wildlife and the environment. They get to know the park up close and personal over extended periods of time. They teach and manage the natural resources with this knowledge and experience.
Park rangers are trained in search and rescue and wildfire management as well as being commissioned law enforcement officers. They also perform park maintenance tasks such as restroom cleaning, lawn mowing, snow plowing, tractor driving, and boundary management.
Park rangers do regular hazard tree assessments. They locate trees that will potentially fall and then remove them safely. They are trained in chainsaw usage.
Park rangers clean roadsides and pick up trash so the park stays clean. On busy weekends and holidays, they direct traffic and park cars.
Park rangers go to local schools to present educational programs that address state curriculum standards.
Park rangers do not hibernate in the winter. They work on many important projects such as building and repairing trails and improving campsites and picnic areas when there are fewer people in the park.
Park rangers do get to take long walks in the woods and hike for miles. But usually, these journeys include bringing along hole diggers, paint cans, hammers, and machetes to install and touch up directional signs, mend boardwalks and clear trails.
Park rangers get involved with scientific research to assist in inventory of threatened and endangered species. They count bats, flowers, trees, fish and all types of naturally wonderful things.
Park rangers do spend time inside too. They still have to check email, write reports, and update databases along with planning events and programs.
Park rangers are the first responders in a park for any emergency. They communicate with local fire, EMS, and police when there is an emergency in or near the park. Since many parks are more than 30 minutes from the closest town or hospital, many rangers are also trained Emergency Medical Technicians.
Park rangers are always training to learn more and do more to protect the park resources and park visitors. This could mean attending workshops to learn about amphibians, classes to learn about DWI detection, invasive species management seminars to learn how to manage kudzu, or canoe program leader training to learn how to lead groups on paddling trips.
Park rangers are certified as Environmental Educators, Emergency Medical Technicians, Canoe/Kayak Instructors, Wild-land Firefighters, Pesticide Applicators, Wastewater Treatment Operators and many other things.
You can learn more about park rangers each month by tuning into our Ask A Ranger Podcast.
Catherine Locke is the Marketing Director for North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. Catherine has lived in North Carolina for three years and has been to almost all the state parks at least once. She loves the outdoors and the people who work tirelessly to preserve and protect the parks for all of us to enjoy.