Rangers on the Range

Five local park employees with a knack for sharing the best experiences possible.
Illustration by Wenjia Tang

 

It’s finally summer. After a midwinter government shutdown and a long, wet spring with record-breaking rain, fallen trees and flooding in every direction, the sun is out and the flora and fauna have never been more spectacular on our local trails. For that reason, we’ve decided to celebrate five of our favorite park rangers. These are the folks behind the scenes making our park experiences fun, safe, memorable and educational. No one goes into this profession to pad their wallets; they do it out of love and dedication to the outdoors. Here are our 2019 Rangers of the Year.

 

MASAKI MIZUSHIMA, GGNRA RANGER, INTERPRETATION AND EDUCATION:

Military History Buff

HOW HE BECAME A RANGER

“I didn’t find this career, it found me.” He spoke Japanese and was hired by the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Alaska to work as an interpreter.

WHERE HE WORKED BEFORE

Glacier Bay and Katmai national parks in Alaska, Death Valley National Park in California and Nevada.

WHERE YOU’LL FIND HIM

In the Marin Headlands, giving tours and sharing the military history of the Cold War and the local Nike Missile site, the Point Bonita Lighthouse and Battery Townsley.

A RECOMMENDED HIKE

The 45-minute “plant stroll,” identifying native plants, their medicinal uses and their purposes in the Headlands ecosystem (parksconservancy. org/events/marin-headlands/ marin-headlands-plant-stroll).

 

SARAH BURKHART, MARIN COUNTY PARK RANGER:

Creative Wreath Maker Extraordinaire

WHY SHE’S A RANGER

“I knew when I was a 6-year-old girl, listening to a park ranger give a talk at Yosemite National Park, I wanted to be in that role one day.”

WHERE YOU’LL FIND HER

Leading creative activities in the parks, for people of all ages: she offers such classes as, among others, Art in the Park, Thanksgiving Floral Arrangements and Wreath Making. “I enjoy seeing people taking a break from their daily grind and tapping into their creativity, creating something they didn’t know they could.”

A FAVORITE SPOT

“The Tiburon Uplands Preserve in springtime for the wildflower viewing.”

 

 

MIKE WARNER, MARIN COUNTY OPEN SPACE RANGER:

Marin County’s Walking Encyclopedia

BEFORE HE WAS A RANGER

“I got a degree in historical geography at Sonoma State, which means I look at how and why places got to be the way they are.”

WHERE YOU’LL FIND HIM

Leading visitors to historic Marin County preserve sites where “history is a lot more complex and interesting than you’ll find in history books.” Such sites include the Old Railroad Grade train site on Mount Tamalpais, World War II crash sites such as the 1946 B-17 Flying Fortress on White’s Hill in Fairfax, various mineral mining sites, graveyards and historic wildfire locations such as Blithedale Ridge or Cascade Canyon.

A FAVORITE HIKE OR PROGRAM

“I recommend any of our full moon hike programs, like the Roy’s Redwoods Preserve hike in Woodacre. It’s a different experience to be in the preserves after dark.”

 

KRISTA HANOFF, MARIN COUNTY OPEN SPACE RANGER:

Top Troubleshooter

WHY SHE’S A RANGER

“I grew up in San Anselmo, in these preserves.” Now she crosses those same hills in her truck, on the lookout for fallen trees, lost hikers and flooded trails.

WHAT SHE DID BEFORE BECOMING A RANGER

Worked on an Arctic research vessel, wrote scientific articles and was a gardener for the San Francisco Recreation and Parks department.

WHERE YOU’LL FIND HER

Leading a mountain bike ride in the Rush Creek Preserve or recruiting volunteers for the open space volunteer patrol program.

A FAVORITE SPOT

“Big Trees Trail to Ship’s Mast Trail in Indian Tree Preserve in Novato is a mostly shaded loop through a beautiful mix of redwood, oak, bay and madrone forest with some great views from the top.”

MIA MONROE, RANGER/ COMMUNITY LIAISON, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE:

Environmental Emissary

HOW SHE BECAME A RANGER

Forty years ago, Monroe joined the activists who worked to preserve the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Then she went to work for the park service.

“I was a nature girl who loved redwoods, and I’ve been able to work as a ranger for decades, sharing the beauty and stories of Muir Woods.”

HER PERSONAL MISSION

To welcome all people to the park to experience nature, “including urban people, people without cars, people who didn’t even think nature was a part of their life.”

FAVORITE PLACE

“A walk through Muir Woods in the evening. There is an easily accessible trail, and I like the fox and river otter, birdsong, and the beauty of the light streaming though the timeless giants.”

 

INSIDER TIPS AND ACTIVITIES

ALL PARKS FREE DAY Get out and play on

“Measure A Days,” every first Saturday of the month. Free entry to all Marin County parks and boat launches thanks to Measure A, approved by county voters in 2012.

BE A HAWKWATCHER Join the Golden

Gate Raptor Observatory in the Marin Headlands. In the fall a team of volunteer hawk counters identify and tally birds of prey. Hawkwatchers are recruited in the spring, and trainings begin in July. ggro@parksconservancy.org

BIRDSONG HIKES Join ranger Shannon Burke for monthly walks at Mount Burdell focusing on the fascinating variety of bird vocalizations. Take some time to tease out the voice of each species and enjoy discussing how different groups of birds learn to sing and develop their individual songs. marincountyparks.org/ discoverlearn/events-calendar

COYOTE MOON HIKE A three-hour, sixmile hike to learn more about coyotes and a research project being conducted in the Marin Headlands. Dress in warm layers and bring a flashlight, water and a snack. The hike is familyfriendly but includes some steep hiking. Call the Marin Headlands visitor center for more information and reservations. 415.331.1540

HELP THE HEADLANDS GROW Join the Marin Headlands Nursery team to transplant seedlings, prune plants, process seeds for the next growing season, or participate in other fun activities. Volunteers ages 10 and up are welcome. First and third Tuesday of each month, 10 a.m.–2 p.m., Wednesdays 1–4 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.–noon.

MOVIE NIGHTS The Friends of Stafford

Lake Bike Park (located at Stafford Lake Park in Novato) and Sports Basement host regular family movie nights, usually featuring action sports–related films. Check the Marin County Parks calendar of events to see what’s playing. marincountyparks.org/discoverlearn/ events-calendar

NATURALIST NOTES Before you go to your local park, check out the Marin County Parks website, where park naturalists share info about some of the flora and fauna you are most likely to see. marincountyparks.org/discoverlearn/ naturalist-notes

Categories: Feature Story