Gary Strachan: Ranger Santa Cruz District
California State Park Ranger Gary Strachan
Up Close and Personal -- A Man with his “Dream Job”
1. What is your most unique experience working in California State Parks?
I have had numerous unique experiences throughout my 30 year career as a California State Parks ranger. Some of my experiences include:
• Saving a confused, unclothed person running along the redwood highway.
• Observing a mountain lion “body surfing” at Gold Bluffs Beach, leave the water, and then look at me with a facial expression of “how did you like that” before running into the dunes.
• Giving a campfire program in the middle of an ancient redwood forest to 400 people and having kids write letters afterwards to say they wanted to pursue a park ranger career.
2. What is the biggest challenge that you want the public to understand about your profession?
The biggest challenge is the need to preserve parklands in the present and the future even with the challenge of budgetary constraints. It is important to know that nothing stays the same in our society and my profession. California State Parks, which is one of the oldest park systems in the U.S., has been through many phases and must continue to thrive even with change and budget constraints.
3. Who or what inspired you to pursue this career?
I have a lined; two page yellowing 6th grade paper entitled “I Want to Be a Ranger.” My mother, a naturalist, grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains in a redwood forest. She took the family camping and hiking in the redwoods and educated us on life in the surrounding forests and oceans.
4. What in your career would you do again if given the chance?
The whole thing. Becoming a California State Parks ranger is a dream job. I am a public servant and help people while working in some of the most magnificent landscapes in the world, and get paid to do it. I cannot tell you how many visitors have asked me “How do you get a job like this?”
5. Any particular parks that are on your dream list to work at?
I have worked at all my dream parks so far such as Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Patrick’s Point State Park, the parks of the Central California Coast, Butano State Park, Big Basin Redwood State Park and Año Nuevo State Reserve.
Learn About Becoming A State Park Ranger