Before I begin, let me remind everyone that the term ‘ranger’ is generic. Park visitors use it to refer to anyone in the grey and green uniform. There are law enforcement rangers who are actually U.S. Park Police. I’m thankful they do their job; I don’t want their job! I work in the Interpretation Division. We are the visitor’s main person-to-person contact with the park. Within Interpretation, there are interp rangers and education rangers. We basically do the same types of things, but to different audiences. The interp. staff generally stay in the park and deal with everyday park guests and programs/hikes, whereas education staff are responsible for writing and delivering the park’s formal education program, visiting schools, leading field trips, training teachers, etc.
Back to my real topic.
Today I got to see what 30 years of seasonal interp./ed. rangers leave behind when they vacate for the winter.
I was the only person from the education office in the park today. Anne was out sick still (bronchitis is nasty) and Fawn had a scheduled day off. So I had to head up to Longmire alone and pick up some of our education materials from the Interpretation Field Office, which is to be renovated and thus had to be emptied. This little cabin, like the rest of Longmire, is on the historic register, so things can’t be changed too much, but at least the windows won’t leak, right?
I was not really prepared for what I saw. I wish I’d taken some pictures inside.
On the outside, the Field Office is this little cabin, not unlike the other cabins at Longmire. Inside was a mess of desks, computer hardware, and boxes – to the ceiling – of paperwork, park brochures, field guides, bear skulls (hey, this is a National Park and these are ranger offices…), safety equipment, snowshoes and a myriad of other things used by our rangers. A park volunteer helped me box up the education office’s things – mostly curriculum notebooks, models and things you’d find in a science classroom. We loaded the eight boxes into the back of my truck.
Soon, Curt joined us. Curt is the West District Interpretive Lead. Great sense of humor; you can tell he’s been around the Service a while. At some point, he announced that 18 people shared this cabin last summer.
Yes. You read that right.
Before it was an office, it was a one-bedroom cabin, meant to sleep TWO. A bedroom/living room, kitchen and tiny mudroom. That’s it.
Now, these are rangers, and they are frequently out and about in the park, giving talks, working in the visitor centers, or roving on trails. But what if you were trying to get some paperwork done in the office? This is the government, after all. There are reports and paperwork to be done daily. Every time a ranger gives an interp. program or hike, they basically have to write the equivalent of a teacher’s lesson plan. I think I’m glad that I didn’t have to find a flat space to write anything in that office…
The west district’s office space for this summer, during the renovation, is even more limited. If you’ve ever been in the tiny museum at Longmire, the west district’s seasonals will be sharing the upstairs loft of the museum. But don’t worry, there’s only going to be 16 people up there this summer.
Boy, oh boy, do I have it easy. I share an office with only one other person. (Our boss has her office in the admin. building at Longmire.) Fawn is a 30-year veteran of the National Park Service, and she is kind enough to share the office with me – it’s about the size of my bathroom – and so far, we seem to get along well.
The lesson here?
You think our parks are amazing? What’s even more amazing is how the National Park Service manages millions of park guests with so meager resources.