Park Ranger Profile: Lori Ann Hopkins from Hodges Garden State Park, LA

Spring is in the air at last! Flowers are blooming, trees are sprouting, and the animals are coming out to play. What better way to celebrate the warming weather than to check out the gorgeous transformation of nature at your local park? For those of you living or visiting down south, Hodges Garden State Park is the place to visit this spring.

With its daily hikes through gardens filled with hundreds of colorful flowers, magical streams and waterfalls, and fuzzy little friends, you will feel rejuvenated from the long winter inside. They also have a number of quaint cabins to rent and campsites if you want to spend a few days exploring the extensive grounds that cover over 700 acres. There is also a gorgeous lake in the center of the park where people can go boating and do some fishing, as well as an equestrian center for those with horses.


Hodges Gardens is a true testament to man’s efforts of conservation and restoration in a region of Louisiana that had been left barren by the massive clear cutting philosophy known as “cut out – get out” that ran from Alabama to East Texas in the late 1800’s. A.J. Hodges was a leader in the conservation movement who set the standards for preservation of our natural resources and his family was kind enough to donate the park to the state in 2007.Lori Ann Hopkins is an Interpretive Park Ranger there and has been in service there now for about a year. As one of the lucky rangers who get to spend most of their days in this haven of nature, she answered a few questions for us about what it’s like to work at this park and why it’s so important to be a park ranger:

1) What inspired you to become a park ranger? 
My love of nature and giving back to the community inspired me to work at Hodges Gardens State Park.
2) What is the best part about being a ranger? Describe a day on the job.
The experiences related to the great outdoors are the best part of being an interpretive ranger. I get to watch people appreciate nature in its’ finest. My days are very enjoyable and peaceful. I get to lead people through the park and show them our beautiful gardens while learning about their connections to nature.

3) What’s a fun fact about your park you like to share with visitors? 
Our park was once the largest privately owned horticultural park in the nation. We have waterfalls in the gardens and great fishing in our lake.  People rediscover themselves when they come to Hodges Gardens.

4) What advice would you give to kids and their parents visiting your park?
I would advise them on how important nature is to our well-being.  So many children do not get to experience the great outdoors and they are well pleased when they do.  I would stress the importance of getting back in touch with nature.

5) What is the most important thing about parks in your opinion? 
Parks preserve our land and wildlife.  Parks are vital to our well-being and no one ever seems to regret their visit.  Parks offer people the chance to see and experience wildlife up close. 
Of Louisiana’s 22 State Parks, Hodges Gardens is truly a gem of beauty. Visitors help the park rangers keep it that way. Louisiana also has an Outdoor Outreach Program (LOOP) to educate youth in low-income families in Baton Rouge and New Orleans and provide them with a unique hands-on approach to educational and recreational outdoor programs, activities, and services. Through a comprehensive organizational model, the goal is to enhance self-esteem, encourage mental and physical improvement, and develop the many characteristics associated with civic-mindedness.
The folks here at Let’s Go Chipper have similar goals: to teach our future generations to appreciate and care for our environment and to get in touch with themselves and their parents by getting outdoors. Join us by getting outside and getting Chipper!