Erin Bauer (EB): So Phil, when did you first know that you wanted to be a park ranger?
Phil Molnar (PM): I actually do remember the exact moment; I was on a hike through the Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park out in Utah. It was a ranger led hike and the ranger was awesome. I remember learning about an aquatic insect that can survive in the desert for years without water. I realized being a park ranger would be an awesome job.
EB: That’s great, what other National Parks have you worked at besides Cuyahoga Valley?
EB: I’ve never heard of that park site, where is it?
PM: It’s in western Colorado along the Cache La Poudre River. It preserves the cultural history of the area and educates people about the water laws in the west. You can check out the website for more information.
EB: Excellent, I’ll definitely do that. Since you’ve worked at several different parks, do you have any memorable stories or unforgettable moments?
PM: I think one of my favorite experiences as a park ranger happened in late summer or early fall when I worked at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It was the time of year when the baby sea turtles hatch out of their nests and make their way to the ocean. During the day, park biologists go down to the beach to collect information about the nests and find out how many turtles haven’t made it to the ocean yet. That night, rangers invite the public to watch as they direct the last few turtles to the ocean. They draw a line in the sand, people behind the line, turtles in front. When the turtles go off track, the spectators yell, and the rangers reset the turtles in the right direction. It’s awesome to see all the baby sea turtles, but it’s also great to see the excited people in the crowd who have never seen the wild sea turtles before. It’s definitely the kind of experience that I’ll always remember.
EB: I am jealous, that sounds so cool. So, when did you leave the beach and start working at the EEC?
PM: Well, I started working at Cuyahoga Valley in 2009. I mostly worked in the visitor centers and did public programs. I started working at the EEC in 2011 and my official title now is Education Technician.
EB: So, what do you do on a daily basis as the Education Technician?
PM: I spend about 3 hours a day teaching for the resident program here at the EEC. I also answer letters from school kids who want more information about the park. I try to send them lots of pictures and information so they can make great posters for school. I hear Glacier only sends out postcards. No, I’m definitely kidding. I have no idea what they send out. But, when I am not teaching or writing to kids I do research for programs. I am always trying to gain more scientific knowledge.
EB: That sounds like fun, being a park ranger does seem awesome. If you had to pick a favorite part of your job, what would it be?
PM: That’s a tough one, but I guess I would say having the opportunity to teach kids. Seeing kids happy to be outside and seeing them learn something new is a really rewarding experience. I love seeing kids experience new things and make new discoveries.
EB: Is there anything about your job that you don’t like?
PM: Any time I’m not outside. That’s probably a typical park ranger answer. But, seriously, working at my desk is not as fun as being outside with the kids.
EB: That makes sense. Do you have a favorite class to teach here at the EEC?
PM: Another hard question. If I had to pick one it would be Watershed Story. I love that it has a history component to it. The kids get to find time capsules in the forest that represent different eras in Cuyahoga Valley’s history. Also, the hike is really beautiful. It’s a great trail through the forest and down the steps to the covered bridge.
EB: We always ask the kids during Watershed Story if they could travel back in time to any time where they would go. Where would you go?
PM: I would go back and see the Renaissance. It would be awesome to experience the rebirth of culture. There was a ton of creativity during that time with all of the artists and there were scientists discovering new knowledge.
EB: OK, you had that great story about sea turtles at Cape Hatteras, is there a similar moment you’ve experienced in Cuyahoga Valley?
PM: I think the coolest thing I’ve seen here is when the baby peregrine falcons took their first flight out of their nest on the I-80 highway bridge and flew away.
EB: Both your park stories were about baby animals. If you had to pick a favorite baby animal what would it be?
PM: Hmm…well, I guess bear cubs. They are pretty cute.
EB: Good choice. I have another silly question; do you think there is a Sasquatch in Cuyahoga Valley? The kids always ask.
PM: No, I think they live in the MetroParks Serving Summit County.
EB: Haha, I won’t tell them you said that. Speaking of ridiculous questions, what is the most ridiculous question a park visitor has asked you?
PM: Haha, there was one time I was working the desk at a visitor center here in the park, a lady called and asked where the anti-gravity room was. I referred her to NASA.
EB: Ok, just a few more questions. Do you have any advice for aspiring park rangers?
PM: Go to college. Plan on working as a seasonal for a while before you get a permanent job. If you are patient the right opportunity will come.
EB: Are the green ranger pants as uncomfortable as they look?
PM: In the summer, yes. They get a bit itchy.
EB: I knew it. Ok, last question. If you were not a park ranger what would you be instead?
PM: Jack Hannah or an FBI agent. But really, I can’t imagine being anything other than a ranger.