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 89 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 and what they like most about being a park ranger in Texas.
“Every day as a ranger for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is different and I really enjoy that about my job,” said Javier de León, Park Superintendent at Estero Llano Grande State Park. “Today I may talk to a scientist studying spiders in the park and learning spiders can spin seven different kinds of spider silk – each silk with a different purpose. Tomorrow I may respond to a medical emergency at the park. Later in the week, I may help with a school field trip and I can teach the students what I learned about spiders earlier in the week. I really enjoy talking to people and getting them as excited as I am about the plants and animals in our park. One never stops learning and I enjoy teaching others about how unique our habitat and critters are in the Rio Grande Valley.
Paige Green, Assistant Superintendent at Cedar Hill State Park, said her path to becoming a park ranger began with a love for nature and the outdoors as a child.
“I became a high school teacher for Houston Independent School District right out of college, teaching Human and Child development,” said Green. “Throughout my 10-year career in education, I was the teacher who would bring the classroom outside; taking opportunities to teach children of all ages about our natural world. It was no surprise to my staff when I announced the decision to change careers and work with Texas State Parks. I began a new adventure with TPWD in February 2016 at Lake Bob Sandlin State Park as an Office Manager.”
Ever since, added Green, I have enjoyed being a part of something bigger than myself. I feel deeply connected to the Texas resources and being a park ranger has allowed me the opportunity to contribute to the mission of resource conservation in Texas.
“I don’t think a Park Interpretive Ranger has a typical day,” said John Herron, Park Interpreter for Huntsville State Park. “We are called to so many tasks that have to be done in the park that adaptation is one of our biggest skills. There are typical tasks like taking care of the nature center, conducting educational programs, and keeping up with the natural and cultural resources of the park. Beyond those normal roles, we work in customer service, and we conduct maintenance in the park and help with upkeep.”
Additionally, added Herron, we also do wildlife rescues and relocation, and help game wardens by educating the public on the hunting and fishing regulations in the park.
“We can assist Law Enforcement by educating the public on the why of our rules when we notice behavior that negatively impacts the park,” said Herron. “A park ranger’s typical day will consist of more projects then we have time for, but sometimes allows for an afternoon of sitting and studying the migratory birds that fly in. I don’t think I have met a park ranger that would have it any other way.”
Madalyn Miller, Interpreter and Volunteer Coordinator for Bastrop and Buescher State Parks, said she could fill up the Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine with advice for aspiring park rangers.
“To our future park rangers, I would encourage you to reach out to a park closest to you and sign up for volunteer and internship opportunities,” said Miller. “Put some love and work into the park and get to know the rangers who work there. One of my greatest joys of being a park ranger (and I know I’m not the only one) is to inspire and help others fulfil their dream of becoming one too!”
Ask all the questions you can think of, added Miller. Each ranger can offer a multitude of advice, experience, encouragement and stories.
“Park rangers are a close community who all hold the same love for our wild places and enthusiasm for protecting and enjoying its resources,” said Miller. “We love to share these special treasures with the public and are always excited to add more rangers to our Texas State Park’s family! If advice for this topic was a rain drop, park rangers could share a river full, so please reach out to us personally and ask away!”
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.