Second park ranger joins visitor services team

Point Defiance Park

ben mcpark ranger

Addition expands services to Point Defiance Park visitors; reach eventually to extend to Ruston Way

A second park ranger and trails expert has been added to the visitor services crew at Point Defiance Park.

Park Ranger Ben Monte Calvo, 34, is a Pacific Lutheran University graduate who grew up in the remote North Cascades mill town of Darrington, where he developed a lasting attachment to his forested surroundings.

He began work in June, about two years after Park Ranger Mary Krauszer was drafted to pioneer the outreach role.

“I’m excited about this,” said Andrea Smith, president of the five-member Board of Park Commissioners. “Ranger Mary has done an excellent job teaching visitors about wildlife and is a great ambassador. With a second ranger based at our premier park, residents now have more opportunities to learn the importance of environmental conservation.”

Park rangers help visitors discover the park’s attractions, answer questions and make them aware of park rules. They also work closely with the Point Defiance Park Ambassadors, who staff the Visitors Center on summer weekends, and Park Watch volunteers, whose presence helps maintain visitor safety and discourages unlawful behavior.

Monte Calvo’s hiring represents the latest advance in a timeline of increasing emphasis on visitor services at Point Defiance Park, which attracts more than 3 million visits annually.

“Ben brings experience as recreation project manager for the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and with the U.S. Forest Service. He’s got a passion for connecting people with the outdoors,” said Phedra Redifer, Metro Parks regional parks manager.

The new ranger already has proposed ways to make the most of the park’s multiple wooded trails. The push to enhance the visitor experience began in 2012 when Metro Parks converted the Point Defiance Lodge, which had been used as a rental facility, into a Visitors Center offering information to the public.

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After Krauszer came on board in 2016, she began to develop a regular menu of interpretive programs, some of which had existed sporadically in the past. Current offerings include an introduction to bird watching called Coffee with the Birds, Birding for Seniors, Tacoma Giants tree walks, Forest Mindfulness, and free weekend Nature Walks, plus drop-in, urban wildlife, garden and history tours.

Last year, Krauszer introduced the Junior Ranger program and booklet, which encourages youngsters to develop into caring stewards of the park and its natural wonders.

In the future, the rangers’ reach is expected to extend along Metro Parks’ various Ruston Way destinations as far east as Chinese Reconciliation Park.

“We’re in the development phase of expanding Ranger services along Ruston Way. We want it to be an extension of the existing program,” Monte Calvo said. “Mary and I have been scouting what it looks like along Ruston Way, the issues and educational opportunities, and what equipment and resources we’ll need.”

It’s very likely that the rangers will peddle along the waterfront on bikes, instead of driving a motorized vehicle. They figure they’ll be more approachable on two wheels than on four. If that works out, they’ll wear high-visibility clothing for safety and stuff informational brochures in saddle bags for easy distribution.

Monte Calvo’s first few weeks on the job were spent shadowing Krauszer and learning her routines. Soon after that, both he and Krauszer began sporting a new version of the ranger shoulder patch. To reflect their future range, the words “Metro Parks Tacoma” substitute for the previous “Point Defiance Park.”

Monte Calvo first became familiar with Point Defiance Park as a PLU student. Homesick for the forest where he grew up, he found the park a “beautiful respite.” “The fact that the City of Tacoma has an old-growth forest is pretty impressive,” he said.

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