Memorial Day Message

This special installment of the Arkansas State Park Blog serves as a reminder of what Memorial Day is all about. Although originally designated as a remembrance of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country, it is also a time that we may want to reflect on other uniformed men and women who have sacrificed themselves and put themselves in harms way to protect us. Please do what you can to make their jobs easier this weekend. Be careful and say a little thank you to those military and other uniformed people who do so much for us every day. Thank you.

It is with a heavy heart that I submit this installment of the State Parks blog. As a Commissioned Officer with Arkansas State Parks, and as a citizen of this great state, I share the burden of losing two West Memphis police officers to a senseless act of violence while carrying out a routine traffic stop on Interstate 40 last week. Many across the nation share in our grief and question why these types of things happen. Officers traveled from New York, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, and all over the state of Arkansas to come and pay tribute to men who were just doing their jobs, trying to uphold the law and keep the peace. The funeral was packed with literally hundreds of officers who make the same “routine” traffic stops every day, and who will continue to do it over and over again after they left the memorial service. I was lucky enough to attend with other representatives of the Arkansas State Parks Rangers, and the fellowship and brotherhood experienced there in West Memphis will be something I will never forget.

Arkansas State Park Rangers wear many hats.

Arkansas State Park Rangers wear many hats.

Many people I meet have no idea that Arkansas State Parks have law enforcement officers. They wonder out loud what could we possibly have to deal with at the State Park? I have other law enforcement friends that ask me “Doesn’t it make you angry that people think you guys never do anything?” No- in fact, I believe the exact opposite.

Many Arkansas State Park Rangers are fully trained in Search and Rescue techniques.

Many Arkansas State Park Rangers are fully trained in Search and Rescue techniques.

I think the fact that the public wonder “Why in a place as safe as a State Park we would need officers?” is a testament to all of my brother and sister rangers throughout the system. The Rangers you happen to see on your camping trip, and more often than not the Rangers you do not see, are on a continual mission to keep our parks safe, educational, and enjoyable. It is not because “we have nothing to do.” It is because of all the work required of Rangers every day that State Parks are so safe.

Park Rangers are there to serve and assist park visitors.

Park Rangers are there to serve and assist park visitors.

The day to day lives of Park Rangers involve all kinds of various tasks- from cleaning up ice storm damage, to checking on the welfare of local citizens. Rangers help children learn how to fish and tell Grandpas the location of the best secret fishing hole on the lake. Other Ranger tasks include performing search and rescue operations in impenetrable forested and mountainous areas, and helping register campers for their ultimate vacation spot. On occasion, Rangers are called upon to aid people who are in the midst of a medical emergency or to help locate the parents of a child who has wandered a little too far away from their campsite. We also get a lot of directions requests (particularly to the best restaurants in the area), and program time and location questions.

Some Arkansas State Park Rangers are also trained park interpreters.

Some Arkansas State Park Rangers are also trained park interpreters.

Law Enforcement Officers are a thankless bunch, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Because of our “fade into the background” status, I won’t call any officers by name when mentioning a few heroes of our Department. We have Rangers who respond to plane crashes. We have Rangers who have searched for days on end in freezing conditions to help find a missing senior citizen who had wandered away from her car two counties away from their park. We have Rangers who have administered life saving medical care to boating accident victims and Rangers who have stepped up to protect an endangered child. I am happy to call these officers brothers and proud to line up next to them every day.

I am a relatively new officer with the Department, and have already received 16 weeks of law enforcement training. All of our officers are required to train in first aid, CPR, and first responder courses. We are also trained in search and rescue, DWI enforcement, and firearms proficiency. It is our goal to be well trained ambassadors of Arkansas State Parks who will make each and every visitor’s experience pleasant and safe. I am proud to serve my park, my community and my state as a State Park Law Enforcement Officer, and am equally proud to line up beside my fellow Rangers to protect and serve. We will do our best to never forget the legacies of the fallen West Memphis Officers, and in their spirit of service will continue to make your local Arkansas State Parks safe.

Mary Anne Parker, Park Interpreter

Mary Anne Parker, Park Interpreter

Mary Anne Parker has been with Arkansas State Parks since 2005, and as Interpreter at Parkin Archeological State Park since 2006. She recently graduated the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy and is now an Arkansas State Parks’ Commissioned Law Enforcement Officer. Mary Anne’s other interests and activities include running the Parker Homestead, which she owns and operates with her husband and his parents, and writing grants to further educational opportunities for students attending Arkansas Delta public schools.

13 Responses to Memorial Day Message

  1. Christi says:

    In response to Chris from last year, it would be nice if we could just see the world for the people in it and not distinguish them by color. People are too short sighted and see the world and it’s people classified by different colors….how about just the human race?

  2. Chris says:

    Two of the four charges of the Arkansas State Parks Mission involve resource protection. Shouldn’t resource protection top the list of law enforcement ranger duties or at least be mentioned? I’m glad the author feels a connection with the ranger “brotherhood”, but does Arkansas State Parks constituency feel the same? The group of unsmiling white men with guns in the first picture–two of whom are not wearing their flat hats flat like friendly rangers should, but are instead wearing them aggressively raked forward like drill sergeants–may not be perceived as so wonderful by all potential park proponents. Is this image welcoming to Arkansas’s minorities? Not one black person is pictured on this entire blog. This article about the diversity of ranger tasks does not show any diversity among rangers. Memorial Day honors America’s war dead of all races, not rangers of one race.

    • Chris – I’m sorry you felt that this blog post didn’t properly represent all the duties and diversity of Arkansas State Parks Rangers. It was not intended as a piece about all of the duties. It was written from the prospective of a recent graduate of the state law enforcement program and her feeling of camaraderie with the rest of state law enforcement, particularly after the recent tragedy in West Memphis, AR. The writer is actually a park interpreter and has dealt with the mission of protecting the resource for years, she was speaking more to the new challenges that have come with new responsibilities. As for the photos, These were taken at a photo shoot for an international magazine that was focusing on the law enforcement aspects of the job. We did include photos of rangers working with family and children, performing search and rescue operations and dressed in fire fighting gear (resource management and protection). The photos are of the rangers that were available for the shoot that particular day and were not intended to reflect the diversity of background and heritage of our ranger team.

      • Chris says:

        I missed the point and I appologize for my overheated comments. There are black people pictured on the blog.

  3. Marla Hudson says:

    Thank you for ALL you do! God Bless and keep all of our Arkansas State Rangers and City, County, State Police as well as our Wildlife Officers.

  4. Thank you for this moving and informative blog post. I have written many good things about Arkansas State Parks on my blog, , but I could be counted in the group of uninformed park visitors, who did not know the role of an Arkansas State Park Ranger. Thanks for the insights!

  5. Mary Anne Parker says:

    Mary, Thank you so much for your comment! We all work in different capacities, but I think we all have the same mission in mind- to preserve and protect, to educate and enlighten, and hopefully to foster a sense of ownership and awe in our visitors about exactly what this great state has to offer. I am proud that we can together offer a safe, fun, and unique experience to the visitors we all share.

  6. Mary Anne; thank-you so much for your thoughtful description of the Rangers in Arkansas State Parks. Over the years, those of us who are with Parks in other capacities, tend to joke and kid you folks. I do forget your many talents and am glad to be reminded. I am also glad there are officers like you. Mary Gillihan Park Interpreter Ozark Folk Center

  7. Terri Kimbrough says:

    To the Arkansas State Parks Rangers and various staff, I say thanks for all that you do! As a single woman, I appreciated the security that I feel when visiting the parks whether by myself or with my girlfriends. It’s good to know that you are around even when I don’t see you there. Having had an unfortunate accident while hiking with friends, it was good to know that help was just a phone call away. The rescuers were friendly and took care of my friend in a well trained, professional manner.
    Thanks for all you do! See you on the trail!

    Terri Kimbrough, Sherwood, AR
    Arkansas, So many trails…so little time!

  8. John Stoufer says:

    Very well said. Thank you!

  9. John Morrow says:

    Mary Ann- I really appreciate this post. You do a great job of summing up the work of law enforcement in Arkansas State Parks. I am thankful that due to the vigilance of officers we are able to recreate in places that are enjoyed by so many people yearly but still be safe and protected. It is a testament to their service that state parks in Arkansas are quiet, peaceful places to relax.

  10. Travis Eddleman says:

    What can I say? I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud to have served with ASP. They were great times, and I miss the camaraderie. Godspeed to all of you.

  11. Martha and Ray says:

    Great job of describing the work of the Park Rangers, Mary Ann. We have high regards for all of you folks. Thanks. Ray and Martha Bostian, Hope, AR.

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