Behind the Scenes at 2015 Ranger Training

People tell us all the time how wonderful our staff is, and we thought that this week we’d give you a behind-the-scenes look into what being a member of our staff means. For those of you who weren’t aware, this past week was 2015 Vermont State Parks Ranger Training, a rigorous 3-day event during which your Park Rangers learn everything from “Conservation Awareness” to “Equipment Maintenance.” Rangers were expected to Relax, Participate, and Communicate throughout their training in order to learn how to better Observe, Interpret, and Protect in the parks. The purpose of this intensive and hands-on learning is to get all of your Rangers on the same page before the summer rush begins: to prepare them for your arrival and everything that entails!

I was lucky enough to go along for the ride, and here’s a brief glimpse into what our Rangers went through in just a few days:

Tuesday 
Rangers old and new flooded the training venue, picked up their name badges, and were introduced to their fellow Rangers and park staff. Without hesitation, their education began with an overview of park rules and regulations and (most importantly) the reasoning behind them. All classes were led by seasoned Rangers and regional managers, and their cumulative years of experience made the process all the more effective and pleasant: questions were asked and thoroughly answered, and no query was too small to deserve attention. An open, candid atmosphere was immediately apparent and made way for great communication between returning Rangers, the new guys, and park staff throughout the entire training process.

After a brief break and lunch hour, everybody got right back into it with a talk about “Vermont Conservation Issues, Past and Present.” We learned about how Vermont has used and protected its land,
from the Abenaki to the Republic of Vermont to our park system today. With some personal trivia thrown in (Regional Ranger Supervisor Tom has eaten a salamander and enjoys flute music; Regional Manager Maria knows her way around a fire truck) the class was both entertaining and full of great information about the state of Vermont, and how that relates to our Rangers’ management of the parks.

After classes, the Rangers split into groups to discuss region-specific issues related to the topics covered throughout the day, and reconvened after dinner for what was by far the highlight of Ranger Training 2015: Enforcement Training and Scenarios. The new Rangers were paired up and had to pass through a gauntlet of park staff who enacted various situations the Rangers might see in the parks, ranging from likely to highly improbable. It mainly involved approaching campers to quiet down late at night, but the staff who were pretending to be the “campers” were instructed to become rather stubborn as the Rangers worked their way through the scenarios. After each group diffused the situation at a station, a regional manager would go through their choices and how they had dealt with the pseudo-campers, pointing out what worked and offering suggestions to make their actions even more effective in the future.

Wednesday

All the Rangers were up and ready to go by 7:00am, and started the day with a course about the Vermont State Parks computer systems followed by a discussion about Risk Management.  I was consistently impressed with how well the instructors boiled down the material in ways that provided the highest quality of learning without getting bogged down in extraneous detail or becoming tedious. Parks Project Coordinator Frank Spaulding effectively educated everyone in the most important duty the Rangers take on: your personal safety in the parks, and how we can allow everyone to have the best time possible while visiting. The take-away was that the Vermont State Parks really operate on a minimalist approach to rule-making: rules that can’t or won’t be enforced simply don’t help anyone, and have no place in our parks.

After a break, the Rangers came back for the remainder of their classes, which took up the rest of the day: Hazard Correction and Emergency Preparedness. Nobody, guests and staff alike, want emergencies to happen at the parks, but of course these things need to be addressed so that we can serve you better—and boy, were they addressed. After sitting through the training our Rangers have to go through to prepare them for any number of situations, I will be entering the parks this summer knowing that each and every one of them has the knowledge to keep everyone safe, and knows exactly what to do in the event of an accident.

Later that evening the Management Team made themselves available for a roundtable Q&A, and opened the floor to the Rangers to ask questions and suggest changes. After a great talk about the potential for composting in the parks and the reasoning behind our firewood regulations (you have to use Vermont firewood because it prevents invasive insects from getting into our forests!) everyone was more than ready to wind down in front of the campfire.

Thursday
The last day of training was on-site at Gifford Woods State Park, and gave our Rangers an in-depth education about how to manage the buildings, grounds, and office, as well as how to operate and maintain the equipment necessary to do so. Even after two long days of classes and workshops, everyone readily listened to proper bathroom-scrubbing protocols and learned how to mix gasoline for their leaf blowers. After lunch and a quick group photo, it was time to head home.

I’ll be honest: before I joined our Rangers for their training, I figured “how hard could it be?” You get a green collared shirt and get to spend your whole summer outside! After seeing everything that Ranger Training entails, and what will be asked of them on a daily basis out at our amazing State Parks, I have certainly changed my tune. These aren’t just people wearing green shirts; they are not only fully prepared and highly educated outdoorspeople, but are also competent, respectful, and genuine human beings. You can rest assured that your visit to Vermont State Parks has been carefully thought-out by many, many people behind the scenes—our Rangers go through this training and do a lot of hard work to make your vacation as special as it can possibly be.

So there you have it…the parks are gearing up, the sun is coming out, and the rangers are more than ready—are you?


See you at the parks!





By Carlie Timbie
Vermont State Parks

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