Point Defiance Park ranger hired to help visitors, showcase natural wonders

park ranger krauszerPark’s first uniformed, interpretive guide will cruise the grounds beginning in June

A 25-year-old roller derby enthusiast from Alaska with a bachelor’s in biology from the University of Puget Sound is Point Defiance Park’s first park ranger.

Mary Krauszer was chosen from among 80 applicants for the position: an authoritative guide to the park’s features and rules.

“I’ll be a boots-on-the-ground, uniformed presence starting in June,” she said. Krauszer started work in mid-May and is already shaping many aspects of the position, from choosing a uniform – it’s similar what U.S. National Park Service rangers wear – to setting up her own professional training on topics such as de-escalation and conflict resolution.

She won’t perform the duties of law enforcement officers, but she will “encourage compliance” with park rules and regulations. Among them is the ban on feeding wildlife. Both animals and people can suffer when that’s violated. “Raccoons and deer on the road can be hazardous,” she said. “Squirrels can be aggressive, too.”

In 2014, Krauszer held a seasonal job as a Point Defiance Park Visitors Center ambassador, so she has experience discouraging visitors from feeding the waterfowl in the park pond. In her new job, she’ll work closely with the current ambassador crew and supervise the all-volunteer Park Watch patrol group.

Perhaps the most dynamic aspect of Krauszer’s new job will be to develop and carry out efforts to connect park visitors to natural features of the park they might not otherwise fully appreciate. The job description includes interpretive nature walks and talks, orientation programs and demonstrations.

“It seems familiar already,” she said on her first official work day. In part because of her park ambassador experience, she knows the park and many of its staff members. And past experiences as an environmental educator add up to a strong foundation for success.

“I’m one more person who can think creatively about how Point Defiance Park can serve the 3 million people who come through every year,” she said.

She was encouraged to apply for the ranger job while working at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium where she was a Wildlife Champions program associate, promoting wildlife conservation among children in area schools. Earlier, she held education and outreach positions for the Slater Museum of Natural History at UPS; as a contract educator for the Franklin Conservation District’s Wheat Week habitat conservation program; and at the Pacific Science Center’s summer camp.

Krauszer was born in Kodiak, Alaska, and raised in Wasilla. She is the youngest of three daughters of a Lutheran pastor – her mom – and a retired hospice chaplain – her dad. As a child, she and her family were frequent visitors to Denali National Park & Preserve, where Krauszer sat in on ranger talks and walked on ranger walks.

When she moved to Tacoma for college, she said she fell in love with the city and doesn’t intend to return to Alaska. Even so, working as a ranger has always been one of Krauszer’s dreams. But she said she envisioned it would happen near the close of her career, not the outset. In fact, this is her first, full-time job since her 2012 UPS graduation, largely because full-time environmental education jobs are rare.

One element of her new job she’s particularly excited about is the future junior ranger program, which she plans to model after the National Park Service version. Krauszer is also enthusiastic about the possibility of a park-based Citizen Science project, which would offer impromptu research opportunities to visitors. When she applied for the ranger job, she proposed a bee study.

Perhaps it goes without saying that Krauszer is energetic. After all, she plays roller derby with the Dockyard Derby Dames, a Tacoma-based league. “It’s a full-contact sport,” she said, and bared her arm to show off a purplish bruise just below the shoulder. She’s a “jammer” whose role is to avoid getting pushed off course while attempting to score. “I race while the others try to knock me down.” She enjoys both the exercise – practices three nights a week fall to spring – and the comradery. “It’s a diverse community of strong women of different backgrounds.”

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