Sue Neary: State Parks Ranger Mt. San Jacinto State Park
California State Parks Ranger Sue Neary
Up Close and Personal
1. What is your most unique experience working in California State Parks?
My current assignment in Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness is about as unique they come. Mt. San Jacinto is located in eastern Riverside County and is recognized as the third highest peak in southern California with an elevation of 10, 864’ above sea level. The ranger station I am assigned to is located in Long Valley (8,461’) and I gain access to it via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The tram takes me from the Valley Station at approximately 2200’ to the Mountain Station at 8,516’. From the trams mountain station I hike down to Long Valley where I share responsibility for the Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness. All of my patrols are on foot in a variety of terrain and seasonal conditions. I provide medical assistance and engage our hasty team for lost and injured hikers. I love it because it provides every opportunity to challenge the responsibilities of a generalist ranger, from protecting an endemic species of flora to educating our visitors on safety and preparedness in a wilderness environment.
2. What is the biggest challenge that you want the public to understand about your profession?
I would like our visitors to understand how difficult it is to find a balance between successfully managing a resource and providing for the increasing number of visitors that recreate in state parks. I want everyone to share my passion for protecting resources, practicing Leave No Trace principles, and in the departments shared beliefs in the Seventh Generation principles of stewardship. We need to make the connection with our visitors that they are invaluable to the preservation of our states natural and cultural resources, not only for their own benefit and enjoyment, but also for all other visitors both in the present and in years to come.
3. Who or what inspired you to pursue this career?
When I was 8 years old my dream was to be a Canadian Mountie. I wanted to rescue people in some of the largest mountains of the world and under the most inclement weather conditions. I also believed that the ranger style hat they wore was a symbol of their pride and dedication to service and I wanted to wear that hat. At 16, I was inspired to pursue a career as a State Park Ranger when I was selected for the Youth Conservation Corp. My mentors were YCC Coordinator Ken Robison, State Park Ranger Kirby Fosgate and Supervising State Park Ranger Jeff Jones all from the Santa Cruz mountains area. I believe they exemplified every aspect of the State Park mission and everything I valued both as a public servant and a resource steward. I now aid in rescue work on Mt. San Jacinto State Park and although I never made it to Canada, I did get my ranger Stetson and I am very proud of the park heritage it represents.
4. Is there something in your career that you would do differently if given the chance?
This is a tough one. I have stayed almost 16 years working in the Inland Empire because I wanted to provide my children with a stable living environment as they grew up, but if given another chance I might consider moving around more between different parks. Every park environment has its benefits and I can’t imagine the experience of working at any one of them being a loss to either my professional or family life.
5. Any particular parks that are on your dream list of workplaces?
I know it is slated for closure over the next year, but I would love to transfer to Castle Rock State Park. I started working in the park as a high school student with the Youth Conservation Corp. For two summers I had the privilege of working on the Skyline-to-Sea Trail which transverses between Castle Rock SP to the mouth of Waddell Creek and the Pacific Ocean. Castle Rock was a great beginning for my career and I would find it a very rewarding place to finish.