Park Ranger’s inspire us to reconnect with nature. Many of us get caught up in our busy lives and feel like there’s never enough time to get to the park or take the family camping. But being in touch with our planet gives us all a much-needed respite. The Earth is not only our home; it provides us with everything we need, physically and spiritually. Nature was mankind’s first church and our National and State park rangers are our current environmental-clergymen! No matter what you believe, no one can deny the extreme importance of every facet of our planet. That’s why it’s so much fun to learn more about it!
Like Chipper, Lloyd Luketin is one Ranger who very dedicated to encouraging future generations to appreciate the outdoors and get inspired by the environments many fascinating aspects. He was very grateful for the opportunity to answer some of our questions about how awesome it is to be a Park Ranger at the famous Great Mountains National Park, home of “Smokey the Bear”– America’s fire watch mascot.
1. What inspired you to become a Park Ranger?
As a child I always liked to play outside, exploring the natural environments around me, and I still do. I like the feel of snowflakes melting on my face and mud squishing between my toes. I used to take long walks in the woods behind my house and examine all the birds, trees, flowers, and butterflies. There are two reasons I wanted to become a Park Ranger. First, I want to get today’s youth outside and in touch with the natural world around them. In sharing my love of nature I hope I will have a small part in developing the next generation of stewards who will be protecting the world’s wild places for future generations. The second reason I became a Park Ranger is that I get to be outside everyday. The mountains, valleys, forests, and streams that make up the Great Smoky Mountains are both my office and my playground.
2. What is the best part about being a Park Ranger? Describe a day on the job.
I work in the Resource Education Division. I teach outdoor, curriculum based, environmental education programs with children from kindergarten to high school. Every morning I will meet a school bus of children that are here on a school field trip. We may hike to a waterfall and study animals groups and habitats along the way or we may climb into a mountain stream and study aquatic invertebrates. We may even hike to the top of the highest peak to study weather and air pollution. Every day is different. The one thing that doesn’t change is that every day the student, teachers, and Rangers all have fun outside learning about the natural world.
3. What’s a fun fact about your park that you like to share with visitors?
The Great Smoky Mountains is famous for its natural history, cultural history and scenic vistas. We are located in Tennessee and Half in North Carolina. Scientists think we may have 100,000 different species of life in the park. One of those species is the American Black Bear. We have more than two Black Bears per square mile in the park. This may be the highest density of Black Bears in the world. We like to say that the Black Bear is a charismatic mega fauna. That means that it is a big (mega) animal (fauna) that everyone likes (charismatic).
4. What advice would you gives kids and their parent’s visiting your park?
There are so many things to do in the park that you should plan your favorite activities first before you even arrive. A great way to research what to do is on our website, www.nps.gov/grsm. When you get to the park, stop at one of our visitor centers and pick up a free Smokies Guide and a map. There is a lot of information available in our visitor centers along with rangers to answer any questions. Don’t forget to visit “Clingmans Dome”, the highest mountain in the park!
5. What is the most important thing about parks in your opinion?
There are two important things about National Parks. All the plants, animals and history are protected for all time and National Parks are here for us to enjoy. Please come visit us here at the Great Smoky Mountains. You will be glad you did!
Most of the park is a magnificent wilderness. The Cherokee described its foggy, serene mountains as shaconage, meaning “blue, like smoke.” Artifacts and log-home ruins from the Native peoples, who were very much in touch with their environments, can be seen all over the park. A visit here will surely motivate your kids to get out and play while also learning so much about nature. The Junior Park Ranger program (available at most National and State Parks) is an excellent place to start the process of improving our home we call Earth for your kids and all the generations after them. Let’s get outside and get Chipper today!