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Your next adventure awaits! Become a park aide!
Beacon Rock State Park, where Customer Service Manager Ariel Ryon began her career with Parks, is one of many stunning work locations for park aides. Photo: Laurel Haas
State Parks is hiring seasonal park aides. You could be one of them!
by Ariel Ryon
State Parks Customer Service Manager
Former Park Aide
“My experience as a park aide begins with a career change. I was an academic advisor for a community college in Oregon and realized it wasn’t my calling. I saw a job posting for a park aide position at Beacon Rock State Park and applied on a whim. After attending a friendly interview, I was offered the job and took it, though I worried I might not succeed.
My hiring ranger took a chance with me. I had never operated gas-powered tools, such as a brush cutter, a riding lawn mower or a pole saw.
Though Ariel lists leading interpretive programs and doing trail improvement as her proudest accomplishments at Beacon Rock, she also enjoyed riding the lawn mower. Photo by Ariel Ryon.
From trainee to trainer
My first weeks were full of training. My new crew was very supportive and made sure I knew how to use the equipment and keep myself safe. I learned how to clean the park’s grounds and facilities, how to make sales for visitors, and how to explain park fees and current projects. By the end of the summer, I knew the job would in some way be life-changing.
Several months later I received a call from Beacon Rock asking if I’d come back for a second season. I was thrilled! I was happy to be invited back and to know my coworkers saw potential in me. This time, I was the one training new park aides, showing them around the park and teaching them how to stay safe on the job.
Whether you're working at a park close to home or in a new part of the state, you'll have time for evening strolls, photography and jaw-dropping sunsets after your shift. Photo: Elyse Woda, Lime Kiln Point State Park.
A new career path
About halfway through summer I started looking at the Parks jobs board. My husband and I were planning a move to Olympia, where he could finish his degree. One day I saw the Customer Service Specialist 2 position - and jumped on it.
The interview went well, in part because I had Parks experience. I also feel my time in the field gave me a level of confidence - that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. If I could cut down a tree with a chainsaw, I could be self-assured in an interview. A few days later I was offered the promotion and started packing for Olympia.
Protecting habitat and educating visitors about wildlife, such as this juvenile fox at Lime Kiln Point, is part of the job. Photo: Elyse Woda, Lime Kiln Point State Park.
I’ve been with Parks for almost four years. I’ve continued to move up in the agency. I now manage the Headquarters Information Center and Discount Pass and Permit Program, and I set the general tone for Parks customer service.
I’ve worked hard to get here, but I owe a lot to Beacon Rock and my time as a park aid. Having field experience sets employees apart at State Parks. I know what’s it’s like for staff and visitors in the parks, and it makes me better at my job.
- Ariel Ryon
Though Ariel doesn't need raingear for work anymore, she treasures her State Parks beginnings at Beacon Rock. Photo: Ariel Ryon.
It’s never too early or late for your dream job!
Ariel is not alone in her upward trajectory at Washington State Parks.
Many park aides find professions within the agency, and others have taken a step back after long careers. Or they’re exploring the mid-career or post-military question, “What’s next?”
In this cartoon, long-term Rockport State Park Senior Park Aide and artist Don Smith asks himself who is his customer. The answer is "All the above - and more!" Illustration: Don Smith.
Why become a park aide?
Seasonal park aides enjoy many job perks. Here are a few:
- Nothing beats summer in the Pacific Northwest! Park aides spend workdays in spectacular settings. They can choose their favorite landscape or climate, from high desert to old-growth forest, ocean beaches, inland lakes, rivers or islands. They may also apply to work in a park near their home.
- Ariel says she knows colleagues who work in a different park every season.
- Several employees have combined seasonal park aide jobs with winter jobs in different states, or even with winter park aide work in Washington. They may work nine months a year and have time to themselves in the off-season.
- A diverse workforce and clientele gives park aides on-the-job training and development. They work with rangers, educators, construction crews and visitors from all over the world.
- Park aides also may help staff in regional and headquarters offices. These contacts give them opportunities to explore new career paths.
- Park aides get paid vacation and sick leave. Certain parks offer housing options or complimentary season-long RV spots for aides who have RVs.
- No two days are alike. Duties include facilities maintenance, cleaning, trail and lawn care, assisting interpretive programs, customer service and office work.
Whether you’re at the beginning, middle or sunset of your career, if you love outdoor labor; enjoy a mix of public-facing service, teamwork and solitude; and are ready for a new adventure, we want to hear from you!
Please check out the job description and apply today!