PWS has been without for more than a decade
State parks in the Valdez area are getting some much needed attention - thanks to the hiring of Travis Russell, the new state park ranger.
“It’s a brand new position that was just created,” Russell said, “The job for me actually began May 10.”
Since that time, Russell toured Alaska training for the position that is based out of Valdez, but encompasses areas from Worthington Glacier in the north, portions of Mineral Creek and into the surrounding waters.
“I’m the ranger for Prince William Sound,” he said, ticking off a list of areas under his jurisdiction, including Jack Bay, Ellamar and Shoup Bay and its trail.
Russell may be new to Valdez, but he is no stranger to Alaska.
Like many, Russell came to the state with the military. He was stationed at Ft. Wainwright in 1999, and stayed. He obtained a degree (history major with minors in criminal justice and outdoors) at UAF and worked there as a student officer. He became a rafting guide and later worked for the state park system for three years - including a stint on a northern edge island off of Kodiak - before taking on the roll of park ranger in Valdez.
Russell said he wanted to come here “because of the community support.”
Indeed, many in Valdez, especially members of the State Parks Citizens Advisory Board, long petitioned the state and pushed brass and legislators to create a park ranger position to address problems with the area’s state parks, which many claimed have been grossly neglected by the state.
“It’s definitely met and exceeded my expectations,” Russell said of his Valdez reception. “So far, everybody’s been extremely helpful.”
And the work has already begun. Russell says the dilapidated picnic benches at the Blueberry Lake campground have been replaced, and well was repaired. Work has also been done on one of its picnic shelter roofs and a rail fixed at Worthington Glacier.
Maintenance is one of his many responsibilities as park ranger.
“As a ranger, there are a lot of duties,” he said. One of which is to make sure state parks are “clean, safe and well maintained.”
But that is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
“We’re considered peace officers of the State of Alaska,” Russell said, and law enforcement is one of his duties.
“We address wildlife issues,” and enforce laws – especially hunting and trapping regulations - within park boundaries, and more, he said.
A year-round position, Russell says he plans to spend the winter doing outreach and working with the local advisory board planning for the 2012 season. Next summer he plans to be out in the field extensively.
“I’d like to focus on Jack Bay,” he said, noting numerous tent platforms need – well - reforming. But that isn’t all.
“Shoup Bay trail needs a lot of work,” he said, echoing one of the many concerns raised by Valdez stakeholders.