As a young lad I developed an interest in the great outdoors. I satisfied this passion with numerous fishing trips and reading books I received from the Outdoor Life Book Club. In 1966, my sophomore year in high school, I went fishing 65 different days! I was a genuine fishin' nut.
I didn't go right to college from high school. I stumbled along as a washing machine repairman and working at the shipyard for several years. A draft notice from Uncle Sam helped me to change directions. When I got out of the army I went on to college.
Eventually I graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a degree from the College of Agriculture in Conservation and Resource Development--Fish and Wildlife Management. Is that a mouthful or what?
My college days were devoted as much to my growing interest in backpacking and bicycling as they were to study. One summer I spent 45 days on the Appalachian Trail. The rest of my college summers I worked at Gunpowder Falls State Park in my home state of Maryland. I started as a seasonal maintenance worker the first summer then became a seasonal ranger for the following several summers.
After graduation I continued to work an 8 month seasonal stint at Gunpowder State Park. There is no doubt that this seasonal experience is what eventually got my foot in the door for full-time employment in the field.
I interview several times for park ranger positions without result. Just as my seasonal employment was to end I was selected for a state forest ranger position at Elk Neck State Forest in Cecil County, Maryland.
I worked for Elk Neck for several years. My home was provided on the forest. It was a house trailer right at the entrance. I really enjoyed having a 3000 acre back yard. The guys I worked with there, particularly Alan Zentz and Cliff England, were terrific and taught me the ropes.
My duties included patrol of the state forest, fire suppression in a portion of the county, maintenance and some PR work. For two summers I ran a YCC camp on the forest.
I enjoyed being a forest ranger, but the fire suppression duties in particular were not my idea of fun. My dream was to be a park ranger. So when the opportunity came I applied for a transfer to Patapsco Valley State Park .
Working as a state park ranger was a dream come true. The three years I worked at Patapsco Valley State Park were a great experience. I attended ranger school and also the Eastern Shore Police Training Academy during my first year. I was genuinely gung ho and motivated for my entire stint at Patapsco. I developed a very professional approach to my job which included considerable patrol and enforcement work and a bit of interpretation.
I soon learned that it was the interpretive duties that really were the most fulfilling. At the time the interpretive specialist was John Krueger. He was my mentor and my idol. He died of cancer just before I left Patapsco. During my last year at the park I realized that I just didn't enjoy the police work involved in working in this very metropolitan park. I began looking for a way out.
The opportunity came in 1982. At the time I was a newlywed. I had married Cindy who at the time was a park technician at Patapsco. We moved to Anne Arundel County within a mile of a brand new county park, Downs Park.
Everything fell in place and before I knew it I was working as one of the three park rangers at the newly opened park. Life was great. We were given quite a free hand in making the park what we thought it should be. I put my energies into developing the historical and natural history programming effort. The ranger team of Dave Dionne, Debbie Yeater and myself were unstoppable. We had a great time and all eventually moved on to superintendent positions within the Department of Recreation and Parks.
In 1989 I was promoted to park superintendent at Downs Park. For 27 years I lived and worked at Downs. The staff at Downs Park has changed over the years, but it is still very much the park I started with over 25 years ago. I am constantly amazed at the creativity and enthusiasm that is generate by the staff and volunteers at the park. It is truly a very special place.
In 2009 I was transferred to a position as Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Trails and Resource Conservation and Protection. What I found waiting for me at Trails was yet another enthusiastic and dedicated staff and volunteers.
And in 2012 I retired. I still visit the parks and try to keep in touch with the folks there who were such a big part of my life for so many years. Now it's back to the farm....
Visit Ranger Rick's Photo Album
Return to Rick's Home Page