National Park Service Careers: Maintenance

This article is part of a series about National Park Service (NPS) Careers. Visit our Work With Us page to learn more about the different types of work NPS employees do.

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A man wearing a yellow hard hat and ear muffs hangs in a harness while he cuts at a tree trunk with an orange-handled chainsaw.
Some highly-trained maintenance rangers carefully remove trees if they pose a hazard to visitors.

NPS / Ted Toth

Maintenance rangers keep the park and its facilities operating and looking their best. At Cuyahoga Valley, Maintenance is the division or work group with the most employees. Within this large group, individual employees are highly trained with specialized knowledge and skills. Some primarily work on trails and grounds. Some focus on roads and railroads. Other crews take care of park buildings and utilities. While their specific duties vary between positions, the common thread through most of these careers is building, repairing, and improving park infrastructure and facilities.

An earth and stone ramp under construction; workers in bright green shirts use heavy machinery to move soil.
Maintenance rangers use hand tools and heavy equipment to build and maintain trails and other projects, like this river access ramp for paddlers.

NPS / Tim Fenner

What Is There to Maintain?

Parks contain a lot of infrastructure. In Cuyahoga Valley, there are over 125 miles of trails, dozens of buildings and vehicles, and over 20 miles of railroad tracks. We maintain acres of playfields that need to be mowed. Parking lots and sidewalks accumulate snow in the winter. Restrooms need to be cleaned and stocked.

In some more remote parks across the country, the NPS essentially maintains entire towns for park employees and visitors. Maintenance rangers with diverse skills work hard to keep the lights on, the water running, and the garbage collected, among other things. Sometimes it literally takes a village to maintain our parks.

Female uniformed ranger wearing orange gloves holds a spray bottle in one hand and wipes a bathroom sink with the other.
Some maintenance rangers keep park restrooms clean as part of their job.

NPS / Josh Angelini

Rangers Who Keep the Park Running

Many maintenance rangers have specialized knowledge about working with tools and machines. They may be certified to operate giant machines, all-terrain vehicles, or chainsaws. Some are skilled welders, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, or painters. They are experts in maintaining the park's historic buildings, railway, and canal structures.

You can probably understand why this is the largest group of employees in the park. There is a lot of work to be done, and specific knowledge and skills needed to accomplish each job.

What Kinds of Careers Are There?

There are several different careers that fall into this category. Some of the common positions include:

  • Maintenance Workers, Custodians, and Laborers – perform a variety of tasks like painting buildings, cleaning restrooms, emptying garbage and recycling bins, and repairing trails

  • Automotive Mechanics – maintain and repair park vehicles and heavy equipment

  • Equipment Operators and the Mow Crew – use various kinds of light and heavy equipment to mow and edge lawns, and build and repair trails, railroads, and utilities

  • Tree Workers and Arborists – safely remove hazardous or fallen trees and branches near roads, trails, and buildings

  • Carpenters, Electricians, Plumbers, etc. – skilled at specific crafts and trades like carpentry, welding, HVAC maintenance, and other specialties

  • Work Leaders – lead the work of small crews of other maintenance employees and volunteers

  • Supervisors – supervise and lead other workers; create weekly and annual work schedules; manage special projects; and ensure other employees are trained in safety, equipment use, etc.

Uniformed ranger wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt holds the nozzle of a backpack blower, blowing leaves from a wide, gray trail with trees in the background.
One priority for Cuyahoga Valley is maintaining the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, the most visited trail in the park.

© J.J. Prekop, Jr.

What Skills Are Needed?

Maintenance employees come from many different backgrounds and have different educational journeys. Some start their career by going to trade school, completing an apprenticeship program, or working in the private sector. Others gain skills in college or the military, and work for the NPS afterwards.

There are various ways to gain experience working in a park-related maintenance field. Learn more about internships and the federal application process on our How to Apply page.

Maintenance Employees Across the Service

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    Cuyahoga Valley National Park

    Last updated: November 29, 2021