Happy Birthday, National Park Service!
Celebrating the National Park Services’ 100th anniversary with a career Q&A from three of the federal agency’s top female park rangers.
The National Park Service (NPS) turns 100 today. In honor of its centennial anniversary, we’re chatting with three female park rangers about their careers within the federal agency – their achievements, advice for those starting out, and their wishes for the NPS as it marks a major milestone.
Patricia “Trish” Kicklighter: Superintendent, New River Gorge National River
Growing up in Missouri, Patricia “Trish” Kicklighter’s family had a cabin near the Current River in the Ozarks that was purchased and turned into a National Park in 1964. Fast-forward more than 30 years and the Missouri native retired in July 2016 from the agency she discovered outside her family’s front door. Along the way, Kicklighter zigzagged around the country with career stops at Assateague Island National Seashore, Cabrillo National Monument and Shenandoah National Park, among others.
What made you want to work with the NPS?
I knew I wanted to be a park ranger from the time I was seven or eight years old. As a kid growing up in Missouri, I watched a lot of rangers on TV. Lassie, for a short period of time, was owned by a ranger. On Flipper, the kid’s father was a ranger. There was a show on for a short time called Sierra that was filmed in Yosemite. It all looked really great to me and I thought, “This is what I want to do.”
Can you share with RUBY readers some good advice you got and gave along the way?
You’re never going to get your dream job right out of college but you’ve got to keep an eye on the target. Do whatever you need to get there. It may not be exactly what you want to do right now but those entry-level jobs are open to anyone and are the way to get in.
Kicklighter goes on to talk about the passage of the Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act, which makes it easier for temporary seasonal employees to compete for permanent positions.
This is going to make it easier for young people – and really all people – who want to work in the Park Service. Most parks staff up for summer, for busy season. (Or the winter in the case of parks like Death Valley.) At New River I supervised 75 employees during the year and it mushroomed up to 125 in the summer. We start the hiring process early; for May we start announcing these positions in January. All are advertised on USAJOBS.
What advice would you give to a young woman who wants a career with the NPS?
Follow your passion. And, don’t hesitate to ask for what you want, especially when you see an opportunity presented. If you see a void, go ahead and say, “I would really like to try my hand with that.” I never thought that a young girl who grew up in the Missouri Ozarks would go on to be a GS-15 [a top-level position] in three different parks.
What is your birthday wish for the NPS?
I collect antique photos of National Parks. I have several of Vernal Falls in Yosemite. In each photo there is the same rock in the same place…for over 100 years. I find it comforting to know that unless Mother Nature intervenes, the park will stay the same. What we enjoy in our lives will still be there for our kids and their kids. It may change due to climate change or a disaster but it’s guaranteed, no matter what, that you can’t come in and change it. We know these places are protected. My wish is that it continues to be a refuge.