Person of the Week

Carol Thompson

Park Ranger

Every day is a good day as a park ranger.  I love the parks’ mission.  The National Parks and Fish and Wildlife Service — they are federal agencies doing a really good job!

1.  What led you to the mission of being a park ranger?

When I grew up, I lived in a little community and didn’t realize I could be a park ranger.   In fact at that time, I never knew I could be a park ranger.  Now I am a Park Ranger as a Visitor Use Assistant.  We collect the fees that run the park.Cadillac mountain Mount Desert Island Maine Acadia Maine

It is a long story how I got here doing what I love!  I was very interested in conservation.  I first started volunteering for various conservation groups.  This I did for about twenty-five years.  I went away to volunteer for the United States Fish and Wildlife service in New Mexico at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro.   I met someone there who is a park ranger at a national park.  She told me, “You should apply for a park ranger job!  You’d make a good park ranger.”

That’s what led me here to become a park ranger at Acadia National Park in Maine.  That’s how I came to my dream job!Maine

I went online and applied for the job.  I sent my application in and they hired me.  There were certain qualifications including experience.  Life experiences can be included as a part of the application and acceptance criteria process.  I do have degree in elementary education.  I also had other service jobs and had developed a lot of people skills.   (Some of the park ranger jobs require a college education and others do not.)

2.  What does this mission mean to you?

I consider it a privilege to work for the National Park Service. I love the outdoors.  I like people and this is a people-person kind of job.  I bikeslove what the parks do.  I love the parks’ mission – not just the National Parks but also the Fish and Wildlife Service.  They are federal agencies that are doing a really good job.  They keep places beautiful so people can go and visit them.  The parks are one of the finest things that the federal government ever did.  So, working at Acadia, is a privilege!

We really need these places for people to visit!  We need them deep inside for our spirit and our soul. For instance, I’ve met so many wonderful young people here at the park.  This particular park has hired many young students right from the high school here on the island.  You can see them grow and change.  It’s really interesting to be able to meet these kids and see what happens to them as they get older and have the park experience.

3.  What was your best day as a park ranger?

Every day is a good day as a park ranger.  One of the things that we do as park rangers is to swear in Junior Rangers.  We also answerranger hats Junior Ranger questions. For example, yesterday I had two little Junior Rangers come up and interview me.  One of the things they asked was, “What do you like best at Acadia?”  I always tell them, “I love the people that come to Acadia because they come from everywhere.”  I asked these kids where they came from.  They were from Boston.  I said, “You came from Boston?  I’ve had people from Germany, from Israel, from Canada, from Ohio, from California.  So people come from everywhere to the national parks.”

4.  What was your worst day as a park ranger?

A bad day would be when I go downstairs to count my money and storeI’m short, or over, or have lost a pass.  I would consider that a “not great” day.  I would get downstairs and say, “Ah.  No!”  Perhaps someone didn’t get the right change or somehow a pass was lost.  I feel conscientious about my job.  I always want to make sure things are right.  Not having everything add up correctly — that would be my worst day.

5.  How did you survive your worst day?

What is important is to go with the flow and make sure the next day everything is all right.  The people I work with here – such as the muir quotesupervisors – are very good at what they do.  If you do make mistakes, they are there to help you.  They help you grow.  If you are not growing at the rate you should, they will let you know.  They are good, so whatever mistake you make, there is a good solution to fixing the problem.  For instance, a new employee forgot to collect from a bus.  Her supervisor went around the park and found the bus.  She collected the money.  (Sign is a John Muir quote:  “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in… where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul.”  Click here to learn more about John Muir.)

The supervisors are great and mentor us very well.  That makes your day good!  Also your coworkers are really good.  You might talk to them and say, “Oh I did this.”  They will say, “Oh, I have done that too!”  Then we all move on.

If someone wanted to be a park ranger, I would suggest that they ranger helpervolunteer for some kind of a conservation organization – any one — if they are interested in wild life and wild life conservation.  That is a good way to learn about what you might do as a park ranger.  If you don’t like doing the volunteer part and if you don’t care for conservation, then that would open up someone’s eyes to not being a park ranger.

I would also suggest going to a park and talking to a ranger.  A person interested in being a park ranger could ask them about their job.  It’s a great job.  It might take a long time to get into it full time.  I talked to one ranger out west and it took her thirteen years before she could get a full time position.

I would suggest to someone to travel the United States and see the parks.  This is a beautiful country.  One possibility is to have a seasonal position in the fall and then go somewhere else for a mapposition in the winter and summer.  A lot of people go to the Everglades or out west to California.  If you can get a seasonal position, the pay is good.  What we need is to have more young people in the conservation arena – the National Parks, the Fish and Wildlife Service — and the private arenas like the Nature Conservancy or Audubon Society.  We need to feed our soul.  We need to get away from televisions and computer, texting, and those kinds of things.  All of those things have their uses.  For instance, I have been helping preserve the piping plover bird.  When I’m talking to kids about the piping plover, they will whip out their cell phones and start learning more about that bird.  So technology can be a good thing, a good use for education, and not just for playing games.

I hope more young people will consider volunteering.  I really love the people.  They are neat!  It’s my dream job!