Don’t Blame The National Park Rangers

Some really good people have been getting a bum rap during the past few weeks.

President Barack Obama’s administration did all it could to make the government shutdown as painful as possible for Americans.

One of the administration’s actions was to shut down national parks and monuments.

Because National Park Service rangers had to do the dirty work, such as telling World War II veterans they couldn’t visit the Washington, D.C., memorial to them and their comrades, the rangers have been criticized roundly.

During my time on earth, I’ve dealt with any number of government employees. Without hesitation, I’ll say NPS rangers are the best.

In comparison to many other people on the federal payroll, their paychecks aren’t very good. Their working conditions can, at times, be brutal. Yet because they love nature and history, they serve.

Two stories, one personal and one from the shutdown news, illustrate attitudes typical, I think, of the rangers:

Three rangers were ordered to tell people they couldn’t visit the World War II Memorial. When a group of visitors took down the barricades and went on in, the rangers stopped the veterans, shook their hands and said, “Welcome to your memorial.”

This one is personal: During a hike in Shenandoah National Park a few years ago, I noticed something odd under a rock ledge out in the woods. It was a container filled with the cremated ashes of a woman. A plaque beside it explained she’d asked to have her ashes placed in the park because of her love for nature.

Later, I went to a visitor center and asked a ranger, without telling her where I’d found the ashes, about it. What would the rangers do if they found the ashes, I asked.

“That’s strictly prohibited by the law,” the ranger replied. That’s not what I asked, I told her. “It’s illegal to leave human remains in the park,” she said. Again, not what I asked.

“Look,” she said after glancing around, “if someone felt that strongly, we wouldn’t do anything.”

For two years after that, I checked each summer and found the woman still resting in peace.

There are lots of bureaucrats in the federal government. National Park Service rangers, I can tell you from experience with scores of them, are not in that category.

When you see one, don’t glare at him or her. Smile.

Myer can be reached at: