This annual award is given to America's top rangers who dedicate their careers to serving park visitors while preserving the country's public lands for future generations.
Eric Grey and Tyler Sewald - Jackson Lake State Park, Colorado
Tyler Sewald and Eric Grey were seasonal rangers at Chatfield State Park before becoming full-time employees at Jackson Lake State Park. Both are outstanding employees who are dedicated to the safety of visitors and the protection of natural resources.Tyler supervises gate attendant staff and manages the park's bookkeeping and accounting to ensure quality assurance, while Eric is a law enforcement instructor and supervises the visitor services staff, which includes one full-time employee and nine temporary employees. Eric is also the secretary for the Colorado State Parks' Employee Protective Association. He continually completes all of his duties and assignments with extraordinary diligence, handling the instruction of rangers and representing State Park employees in the association.
Both Eric and Tyler are well versed in all aspects of patrol duties on both land and water. Rangers at Jackson Lake State Park must be a "Jack of All Trades" and both of these gentlemen excel in this area.
I would like to nominate Senior Ranger Eric Grey and Ranger Tyler Sewald for their exceptional effort in saving the life of a young boy at Jackson Lake State Park. Without their dedication, training and willingness to help another, the young boy would have surely died.
On April 19, 2008, a call was sent by Morgan County Dispatch of a capsized boat near the boat ramp. Officer Sewald was the first to arrive and saw the boat about 40 yards off shore. The wind was blowing at about 30 miles per hour and pushing the boat to shore. Two men could be seen hanging on to the side of the vessel and a bystander told Officer Sewald that a young boy was trapped under the boat.
Officer Sewald donned the cold water and swam to the vessel to assess the condition of the two men. He could hear the boy screaming and pounding on the bottom of the boat. Officer Grey then arrived and used throw lines to pull the men to shore. By this time, the screaming had ceased. The officers could not reach the young boy because of an enclosed bow and the bimini top. The vessel was then righted and they pulled the boy from the boat. They handed him off to emergency medical personnel who began CPR. By the time the helicopter arrived, the boy was breathing. Two days later, the boy had made a full recovery.
These two officers displayed the unselfishness and professionalism that exemplifies officers in Colorado State Parks. Their quick response and years of training saved the life of a young boy.
ReserveAmerica's silver medal winners were also awarded for their outstanding dedication to their park and visitors.
Betty Baust found the Florida Park Service thirty years ago and it seemed like a perfect fit for a fifth generation Floridian who grew up in the woods of central Florida. In 1979, Betty was hired at Gold Head Branch State Park. Little did she know that this would not only be a great job, but it would become her way of life.
She attended the 15th Annual Ranger Academy where she met her future husband, John, who also worked for the park service. Betty enjoyed her job at Gold Head for a couple of years until she and John married and decided to raise a family. For the next 25 years they worked in state parks from the Keys to Tallahassee.
Ranger Baust has made changes to the parking queue which has efficiently moved traffic through the park quicker, with fewer snarled lines and frayed nerves for park visitors. She does this with a gracious smile, even when she spends hours in the hot sun, wind and cold weather.
She's always willing to share information about the resources both within the park, in the adjacent community and the statewide park system. She is empathetic to the needs of others and is always willing to go the extra mile, spend the extra time and make the extra commitment to make the visitors experience enjoyable.
Her park visitors come back to not only the park, but to see and visit with her each year. She is truly the shining example of public service and a most exceptional ranger.
Bill O'Connor - Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire
A New Hampshire native, Bill has made his home in Franconia for twenty six years. When he started in the winter months he worked at Cannon Mountain Ski Area in Franconia Notch State Park as a lift attendant, assisting and greeting guests as they got on the chair lifts. During the summer months he worked on trail crew, taking care of the waysides throughout the parks, cleaned bathrooms, cut brush and repaired walkways.
In the early 90's Bill was named manager of Franconia Notch State Park and began improving guest experiences. He created the Covered Bridge Tour for guests who couldn't make the entire walk around the gorge. He lobbied for a new high definition movie that highlights the parks history to all visitors. During the winter months, he created a Guest Services department and an Ambassador program; just another service to provide the guest with the best experience.
When I think of "Ranger of the Year", I think of Bill O'Connor. Did he do something really special this past year? Nope! He does something special every day. He loves his park, he loves the park system and he loves the guests. It is an excellent combination to make a great ranger. He works seven days a week if necessary to make sure that every single person who comes to his park has the same experience or better than the last. He does everything from park upkeep, to answering questions, to driving a bus.
He has worked for state parks for many years and each year he does it better and better. He is dedicated, passionate and has pride in his park. He has his park name on his license plate, on his camper and on his personal truck. He believes in what he does and believes that he can make a difference! Bill is someone I aspire to truly look up to. He is someone that should be Ranger of the Year and deserves it!