my memories of visiting US National Parks are highlighted by the wonderful interfaces with the National Park Rangers.
the Park Rangers in my experience have been very knowledgeable, very accommodating, very anxious to impart their knowledge and experience to you, the visitor. what i remember most are the Ranger talks in the evening usually. also the Ranger walks during the day. these were so special even though they included a lot of people.
when i think of a National Park Ranger i think of Ranger Rick — the epitome of a man or woman who is totally devoted to making my visit to a National Park informative, eye opening, and in the process increasing my sensitivity to nature and all that it brings.
well, this unfortunately is not what i ran into during my visit to Death Valley National Park this past week. the reality was far different than what i remembered and wished for.
Ranger Rick at Death Valley National Park is not giving Ranger talks in the evening. Ranger Rick is not leading walks during the day. No way.
instead, what Rangers that are on duty are doing one of four things.
one, taking payment from visitors of the fee that is now charged to enter a National Park. this means that one Ranger does nothing else but stand behind the desk collecting fees. what makes this even more insane is that the fees charged could not possibly cover the costs of having the Ranger do this, much less cover any of the costs of the National Park itself.
two, answering phone calls. one Ranger does nothing else than answer phone inquiries from the public in the back office. we don’t even see him or her. what a misuse of supposed talent.
three, giving advice to visitors who come to the Visitor Center. this is important and very valuable. maps are out on display. advice is given on various day hikes. this role and function is crucial even though as we have noted in previous posts the Ranger does not always tell you everything — note…dry falls when hiking alone in Death Valley.
and finally, four. the final Ranger, the fourth one, is the supervising Ranger. He — for some reason all the Rangers that i ran into in Death Valley were men — is standing around in the Visitor Center waiting to do what he has been tasked to do. you are not going to believe this, but he is there so that if more than 20 people enter the Visitor Center at one time, he is to man the front door so that no more people can enter. He becomes the door man, the security officer, the Covid protocol enforcer at the Visitor Center.
how ridiculous is this? first of all, the chances of there being 20 people inside the Visitor Center at one time in Death Valley in May at any one time of day is very, very low. secondly, all people who enter must have a mask on, and must follow the social distancing standards that we are all familiar with. third, the inside of the Visitor Center has very high vaulted ceilings, and is a very large space with tons of room.
there are two issues here. one is the number of Rangers assigned to each National Park. it has been reported that staffing levels are down 20% from 2005 levels. this is occurring at the same time that people have been flocking to the National Parks in record numbers. 50 million more visitors than in 2005.
the second issue is how are the Rangers that are working are being deployed. in my opinion, three of the four Rangers outlined above are not doing what we want them to do. their talents are being misused. i want them to give Ranger talks and lead Ranger walks, for gosh sakes. where is the Ranger Rick that i know and remember so fondly?
i have no idea whether what i experienced in Death Valley National Park is a one off, or whether this is symptomatic of what is happening at all or many of our National Parks.
what a shame i am thinking that Rangers are not creatively figuring out how to give Ranger talks OUTDOORS with social distancing and masks required to meet any Covid fears that exist. what a shame that Rangers are not creatively figuring out how to lead Ranger walks OUTDOORS with social distancing and masks required. Come on!!!!!!! this would be so easy to do, and be so well received. one or two talks a day, one or two walks a day would be all that is needed. total time commitment on the part of the Rangers might be 12 hours (3/talk x 2; 3/walk x 2). total time available from 4 Rangers working presumably 8 hour shifts is 32 hours. that would represent 38% of their available time. not too much to ask. not too much to figure out how to do, and how to do it safely for all involved.
whatever happened to Ranger Rick.
2 thoughts on “what ever happened to Ranger Rick”
I just got a National Parks Survey.
The reason there are no national park rangers, is because of serious budget shortfalls have resulted in reductions in park staff, including national park rangers. During the busiest times of the year, some park visitors may never see a park ranger at al!
National Parks Conservation Association
PO Box 97202
Washington DC 20077