Last updated: June 12, 2017
The Backbone of the National Park Service
By Lacey Thomas
By Lacey Thomas
Each business has a group of employees without which it would cease to function. The National Park Service is no exception to this rule. Summer seasonals are the backbone of the NPS. Without the annual influx of park rangers, biologists, interpreters, and other technicians, your national parks would be in serious trouble.Many, if not most, of the uniformed staff you’ll meet as you visit parks this year are summer seasonals. They come from all walks of life to service their fellow park lovers. Many are college students or recent graduates exploring the country for the first time. Others are retirees who love seeing and working at the same places they visited with their families in years past. Some are teachers wanting summer employment. Others fit in none of those categories. No matter their backgrounds, they are all united with the common goal of helping you have the best possible experience on your public lands.
Seasonals are some of the absolute best at what they do. Competition for summer jobs in fierce with hundreds, if not thousands, applying for a small number of jobs. Supervisors spend weeks interviewing and hiring the best fit for each position. Seasonals new to a park go through training before joining the rest of the staff in daily operations. Returning seasonals usually get a day or two to refresh and then jump back into the swing of the park.
All park units depend on increased summer staffing, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park is no different. An average summer day is about 20 times busier than an average day in winter. In order to accommodate more visitors, more tours, and more traffic, we need seasonal rangers. We also need their new ideas. It can be very easy to become complacent and think “We’ve always done things this way.” Fresh eyes see ideas and solutions to problems that may have been overlooked.
Some of you may be thinking, “If they need these people every year, why don’t they keep them year ‘round and not have to hire and train them every year?” That would certainly be easier from an Human Resources and training standpoint, but we just don’t need so many rangers in non-peak seasons. Even permanent year-round rangers may be furloughed (unpaid time off) in winter. Of the nearly 331 million visits to national parks last year, the vast majority occurred between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The bulk of summer seasonals work between those holidays.
Life in the National Park Service revolves around school calendars. So as you load your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews in your car (or just your adult selves), expect to see more of us to help you enjoy your visit. Some of us may only be here for a short time, but we’re all here to give you our best. Whether we call these parks home or are only here for a season, we are all vital to the National Park Service mission.