AUSTIN— Every year on July 31, World Ranger Day is an opportunity to take a moment to recognize the unwavering commitment towards park stewardship by the many park rangers at the 88 Texas State Parks that make up our state park system. Initially created by the International Ranger Federation, World Ranger Day celebrates the work park rangers do daily to protect the planet’s natural treasures and cultural heritage.
Throughout Texas, Texas State Park rangers cover a multitude of roles to keep parks functioning smoothly for visitors to enjoy. These roles include maintenance, welcoming and orienting park guests, natural and cultural resource management, outdoor education and outreach, and state park law enforcement, just to name a few.
Park rangers from different regions in Texas spoke about what a typical day looks like, what their path to becoming a ranger was, what advice they would give to aspiring park rangers, what their most memorable story is and what they like most about being a park ranger in Texas.
“My path to becoming a park ranger started when I graduated from college,” said Candyce Johnson, Assistant Superintendent at Abilene State Park. “I worked as an intern through the Student Conservation Association at National Wildlife Refuges and National Parks in Florida, Louisiana, and Arizona. The experience I gained qualified me to be interviewed and ultimately hired for the Park Operations Trainee position at Dinosaur Valley State Park.”
Thomas Teggeman, Office Manager at Lockhart State Park, said the thing he loves most about being a park ranger is that every day offers new and interesting challenges.
“A typical day for me is anything but typical,” said Teggeman. “This job requires me to be able to do many tasks and handle a great deal of responsibly. Our park has a golf course and between that and operating a swimming pool during the summer months, our park has a great deal of unusual activities not typically associated with a park ranger.”
In addition to getting to welcome new guests to the park and share the history of this beautiful historic CCC park, added Teggeman. I am responsible for ensuring our front office runs smoothly, and our maintenance staff gets all the supplies and materials they need bought and delivered to the park.
“This often means doing a great deal of research, pricing, and reaching out to a variety of vendors to meet the unique needs of our park,” said Teggeman. “By far, my favorite part of the job is the people. My fellow rangers are outstanding, and I am very pleased with how well everyone is able to make meaningful connections with our visitors. Our regulars know all our staff by name and new visitors tend to compliment just how lovely our small and lesser-known park is no matter what activity they came to enjoy.”
Martin Creek Lake State Park’s Lead Maintenance Ranger, Steve Propes, said working as a park ranger has many positive aspects including assisting park visitors, meeting so many good people and forging friendships with staff, volunteers and visitors.
“I love the variety of tasks that present themselves each day,” said Propes. “I enjoy working to preserve our resources and working to make Martin Creek Lake State Park the best it can be. My favorite aspect of my job, however, is working hard with everyone on our park team to prepare the park so visitors will have a positive experience- seeing the visitors enjoy our park and hearing the positive comments about the work we are doing. That is what makes being Texas State Parks Ranger so fulfilling.”
Dedrick Miller, Park Police Officer at Cedar Hill State Park, said one of his more memorable stories as a Park Police Officer occurred when he arrived at his first duty station.
“Within my first few days on the job, I received a call about a group of people who were lost in the woods and became exhausted,” said Miller. “At this point, I was still learning the details about my new job location. After an exhaustive search, I was able to find the family and provide them with the assistance that they needed. The great appreciation the family conveyed reminded me of the importance of my job.”
Every time that I saw the family afterwards, added Miller, they never missed the opportunity to express their gratitude to me. This interaction and many others like it are constant reminders of why I enjoy my job.
“The advice I would give an aspiring park ranger is to get involved with parks early on through volunteer opportunities or internships,” said Montse Canedo, Park Interpreter at Brazos Bend State Park. “These are great ways to start getting experience, get familiar with the job and build connections within the parks and the agency. Don’t be afraid to approach the park rangers when you visit the park and talk to them! We have many roles like customer service, park maintenance, education, etc. so it’s always a good idea to talk to the rangers and find what interests you most.”
Thanks to the invaluable work of park stewards working at Texas State Parks, park visitors can continue to be able to enjoy these special places for future generations.