My Turn: State park rangers gladly do it all | SierraSun.com

My Turn: State park rangers gladly do it all

Brian Barton

There is a silent force working in our area. A group of people quietly going about their daily duties, yet playing an intricate role in our community.

While you may not notice them unless they are needed, the rangers of the California State Parks affect our lives in diverse ways.

A driver has a heart attack on Interstate 80 causing a crash. When paramedics arrive on the scene, a park ranger is already performing CPR. The man survives.

When emergency crews are called for a plane crash in the waters of Lake Tahoe, a ranger patrol boat is on scene to verify that a sea plane merely landed, bringing his family to camp in Emerald Bay. The canceled emergency response saves thousands of our tax dollars.

A police chase for a stolen car ends in arrest at gunpoint with a ranger and Truckee Police side by side.

Wanting to get married locally, a young couple chose a park setting. The ranger tours the area with them suggesting locations, picture angles and time of day or season. This tour results in a four-star wedding and memories to last a lifetime.

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A local teacher needs an expert on wildlife for a class project. No biologists are available, but the ranger comes to the rescue with his college degree in natural resources.

A young boy fails to show up after a hike. County search and rescue teams are summoned, but before they arrive, a ranger has the boy and his parents happily re-united.

These stories are just a few of the almost daily events in the life of a ranger. And if you ask most rangers, they wouldn’t trade their job for anything. Our local Park Rangers take pride in their diverse abilities. California State Parks describe them as “generalists,” meaning that they wear many hats. They are equally skilled giving a campfire program to 200 people or rappelling down a cliff to rescue an injured hiker. They are equally comfortable in confronting a bear in a Dumpster, or an armed felon or crazed addict.

When you realize that the 11 parks in our area have more than 600 campsites, heavy summer visitation brings enough people to form a small city. This visitation also brings all the crime or problems associated with people in a small area.

Rangers provide for public safety, but more importantly educate the visitors to reduce impact on the environment, as well as reducing conflict with others.

But in all that they do, nothing makes rangers happier than a smile from a child who experienced something new, found his way back to camp, or saw nature in action. Rangers lead interpretive walks, youth programs, and often can be found in classrooms, opening young minds to the great outdoors. Or they may simply just stop while on patrol to visit with a family walking through the park.

While most of the rangers’ duties focus around the state park property and visitor operations, they are peace officers and have law enforcement authority. Many locals are surprised when they call for service and a ranger is first to show up. If the emergency is close to the park and police, sheriff, or paramedics are responding from a distance, often the ranger will respond and help stabilize the situation until other agencies arrive. When the situation is resolved, the ranger quietly slips away and returns to the park.

An old ranger once said, “Many hats makes interesting work.” Whether acting as a teacher, police officer, tour guide, medic, campground manager, tow truck driver, naturalist, information operator, snow groomer, or entertainer, the park rangers of the Tahoe-Truckee area are an integral part of the community and are proud to be the silent support partners.

Next time you see a ranger vehicle passing by, throw a big wave and a smile, and let them know they are part of YOUR community as well.