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Jo-Ellen McMenamy: Off-Highway Vehicle Ranger

Jo-Ellen McMenamy, Off-Highway Vehicle Ranger

Off-Highway Vehicle Ranger Jo-Ellen McMenamy
Up Close and Personal


1. What is your most unique experience working in California State Parks?

 I have been extremely lucky to have worked for the beaches of Monterey, Point Lobos State Reserve, Monterey State Historic Park, Asilomar Conference Grounds and now Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area. One unique experience was when I worked at Point Lobos State Reserve.  I watched with excitement as expectant mother seals wiggled their big bellies onto the sand to grab a prime piece of real estate for birth. I, along with park visitors, watched with awe while the cute little seals were born.

2. What is the biggest challenge that you want the public to understand about your profession?

California State Park rangers and lifeguards have many different aspects to their jobs. We go from talking to children about their dreams and aspirations to responding to a visitor who has rolled their ATV, to protecting the public from various hazards…. and it all can happen in about 15 minutes. It is a high octane job that involves a lot of skill and multi-tasking. I love it.

3. Who or what inspired you to pursue this career?

I began my career as a wild land firefighter in Southern California for the United States Forest Service. My husband, Mike McMenamy, had just finished the California State Park academy and was stationed at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. I decided to transfer to a fire crew in Big Sur. One of my first assignments was to put on the Smokey the Bear costume and meet up with a ranger for an event at the park. When I arrived at the event, I was partnered with my husband to walk around and talk to park visitors. I was amazed by the wide eyes and millions of questions for my husband, “the Ranger.”  That was the day I knew I wanted to be a State Park Ranger – The day Smokey the Bear was no longer as cool as “the Ranger” wearing a Stetson and a smile.

4. Is there something in your career that you would do differently if given the chance?

I love the smell of the ocean, the taste, the sounds and most of all the waves. 
I wouldn’t do anything differently, but I am always up for another new challenge……lifeguard maybe?

5. Any particular parks that are on your dream list of workplaces?

The truth is working in any of our state parks is a dream and I’m not ready to wake up yet. I’m lucky enough to ride dirt bikes in the mud!