Friday, July 3, 2009


Today is day off number 2 this week. I expect a busy weekend at the park, so I am enjoying a peaceful day to myself today. Last Friday, I gave you all some background on the reasons that I started this blog. I think that some history and/or Q & A could be a good, ongoing theme for Fridays. So, while you readers think up some questions to post in the comments section for next week, I will answer a question that I get at the park often. How did you become a park ranger? I usually give a quick answer to visitors, but because I have a captive audience, I will give you all the details!

I lived in 3 houses throughout my childhood. One was in the mountains of North Carolina (the pic is me in our yard in NC), where I was born, and the other two in northern Indiana where I was raised. I was a lucky kid. I always had a big backyard with lots of natural space where I could play. I had neighbors that provided me with my own personal petting zoo and we always had a collection of horses, cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, etc at home as well. I have great memories of working in our household gardens with my parents or following my Dad around the yard to help mend fences or pick up fallen branches. My parents are great teachers who always helped me to learn about my surroundings. I remember picking up leaves in the yard and my dad could tell me their names. I was fascinated that each kind of tree had its own name and even more intrigued that my Dad knew so many of them. My mom could name every plant in her gardens as well and I tried hard to absorb it all. I also had the incredible experiences of summer camp. I spent 10 summers as a camper at YMCA Camp Eberhart in Michigan and returned for another 3 summers to be a counselor. As a counselor, I worked at the horseback riding program and the nature program teaching skills that I had learned as a camper. I had more than one child tell me that I was a good teacher. At that point I didn't know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but the thought of being a teacher in a classroom made me feel claustrophobic. I knew that working outdoors in some way seemed right, but I had no idea what that meant at the time.
In college, I studied Natural Resources and Environmental Management and focused on Outdoor Recreation and Interpretation. I still didn't know where that was going to take me though. My main professor in the NREM department did a wonderful job of bringing in professionals from our field to speak with us. All of their jobs sounded exciting. I loved the ideas of collecting and analyzing samples, working with animals, prescribed fire, teaching children about nature, developing community greenspace. I wanted to do ALL of those jobs! The summer after my junior year, did a 3 month internship working as a seasonal ranger at one of Delaware's state parks... I HATED it and vowed to NEVER work in a state park again. I loved the park, but the rangers there are police officers. I carried handcuffs, and an ASP (an extendable metal rod used to inflict extreme pain), and pepper spray (training to carry the spray involved being sprayed with it). Park visitors were nervous when a ranger approached them, and it seemed to me that they had good reason to be. I realized that Law Enforcement was NOT an interest of mine.
When I finished college, I moved to Delaware and worked at Ashland Nature Center. I loved the time that I spent working there. I worked with a lot of wonderful people, many of which volunteered their time to teach school groups about nature. We worked with the local schools to teach outdoor education to second and fifth graders. The children were bussed to our locations at different nature preserves and took part in hands on learning. They could catch and touch and experience things that were shockingly foreign to them. Every kid needs to feel connected to their environment and we provided that to city kids who may never have that chance again. It was amazing.
Next, life carried me to Florida. I had a lifetime's worth of plant/bug/animal knowledge that was almost useless in this new environment. I loved it! I felt like an explorer just sitting in the backyard waiting for something to walk by so that I could look it up in a field guide. Even though I felt that I was basically without experience or skills because of my new surroundings, I had to find a job. I tried the local nature center and was disappointed to find that they weren't hiring, I looked into county and city jobs that seemed miles away from the kind of work I wanted to do. I really didn't want to even look into state parks, but I put a resume on the state webpage anyway and requested an e-mail update when jobs nearby came available. In the meantime, I contacted a local state park and asked if I could volunteer. It was a very fun volunteer position and I found myself warming up to the idea of working at state park again. I found out that while rangers where responsible for enforcing park rules, they did so with a friendly discussion, not with weapons and tickets. It wasn't long before a job at Ichetucknee Springs State Park came available. I was shocked when I was chosen for the position! I spent one terrific year there, traveling 45 minutes each way to work. When the Troy Springs position came available, I was able to transfer over to this resident position. I will have been here for three years in August.
So that's my story. What else do you want to know? If you think of a question, please post it in the comments today. I will answer one or more in next Friday's post. There are no stupid questions, please ask whatever is on your mind... its probably something that everyone else is wondering and I may never address.


Lorena said...

I don't have any questions... but since I kind of feel like I hounded you over and over again to move to Florida where you could get a job doing something you loved in an environment where you could do it year-round... I must say that I'm grinning from ear to ear to hear how much you like it! Tim and I are so glad you came down this way. :-)

Ranger Amy said...

Thanks, I'm really glad I came to Florida too!

Jane said...

Hi, Amy! How are you? Are you still working at Ichetucknee Spring State Park? I love seeing your photos. Hope to hear more from 'Ranger Amy'. Cheers!

Karen Andot said...

Hi Amy! My name is Britnee and I'm 21 years old. I have yet to go to college,because I was unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. But I'm finally certain of the proffession I would like and that is being a park ranger. I have lived in Florida all my life! I've visited many springs and beaches and have enjoyed my time here. My family and I went to Rocky Mountain National Park this year and spoke to a few rangers about volunteering and educational requirements. They said they were only required to have an Associates degree and that I could become an intern for next summer! Anywho, I would like to get my foot in the door however I can. What are the educational requirements for becoming a park ranger in Florida?? Should I start school and major in Natural Resources & Environmental Management? Is it a good idea to intern? & do park rangers actually live on the parks? I hope you still look back on this blog from time to time. I appreciate your postings, it has definitely encouraged me to do what I love!