Hey Ranger! A Favorite Park.

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April 25, 2008

Willow Beach sunset photo (c) by Jim BurnettMany RVers enjoy visiting a favorite park or campground year after year, and even like to stay in the same campsite whenever possible. It’s not surprising, therefore, for those people to begin to feel a sense of “ownership” of such areas, and this same attachment can occur if we happen to live near a popular recreation site.

Whether they’re local residents or repeat visitors, the fact that people view a place as “my park” isn’t necessarily bad. Such attitudes can encourage people to take better care of the area, or perhaps get involved and help out as volunteers. In one case, however, proprietary interest caused a classic case of foot-in-mouth disease.

Willow Beach is a popular fishing area in the far northwestern corner of Arizona, within Lake Mead National Recreation Area. That’s a rather sparsely populated part of the country, and during my years there as a ranger more of our visitors came from the Las Vegas area and even southern California than from Arizona. We also had a pretty high percentage of repeat visitors, some of whom had been coming to that same location for many years.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning, the sun shone brightly from cloudless skies, a gentle breeze helped cool the desert air, and the sparkling blue water of the lake beckoned to a host of boaters lined up for their turn at the launch ramp. Parking spaces near the ramp were filled to capacity, and latecomers were relegated to an overflow lot some distance away.

One of our regulars had arrived early and had a prime parking space, immediately adjacent to the marina. His spot afforded a good view of the hustle and bustle and occasional unintended entertainment that occurs when too many people are in a hurry to launch their boats at the same time.

The man in question was well-known to other locals for his rather grouchy disposition, so I’ll just call him Oscar in honor of a famous character on the children’s television program Sesame Street. Oscar was slouched against his pickup truck and surveying the busy scene when I happened to walk by. He spotted me and decided to offer a comment about the world in general and the crowded conditions in particular.

“Hey Ranger!”

I recognized him immediately, greeted him in return, and paused briefly to see if he just wanted to make conversation or actually needed some help.

“Looks like you’ve got your hands full today,” Oscar observed astutely.

“Yes sir, it’s a typical Saturday for this time of the year,” I replied.

Oscar scanned the sea of cars, trucks, RV’s and boat trailers in the jammed parking lot and the line of vehicles waiting their turn on the boat ramp. He then glanced back at me and made the Comment of the Week: “Well, this place would be pretty nice if all these yahoos from out-of-state would just stay at home.”

Since we happened to be standing in Arizona at the time, the irony of this remark wasn’t lost on another group of visitors who overhead Oscar’s remark as they happened to be walking past. They had almost completed their hike back to the boat ramp from the overflow parking area, and had worked up a respectable sweat in the process. One of them stopped, wiped his brow, glanced first at the Nevada license plate on Oscar’s truck, and then back at our self-appointed philosopher.

“Man, you’re exactly right! Maybe we ought ask the park to reserve these prime parking spaces for people like us who live right here in Arizona.” He paused briefly for effect, and then tossed the zinger. “What state are you from, by the way?”

I don’t think the distinct reddish tinge that suddenly appeared on Oscar’s face was entirely due to the abundant desert sunshine.

“Well,” he huffed, “I’m from just up the road in Vegas. I was talking about all them Californians.” Pointing across the water to the opposite cliffs, he wrapped up his defense. “That’s Nevada, just across the river. All the same here at Lake Mead, Nevada and Arizona.”

“Oh, okay,” concluded the new arrival as his group resumed their walk. “I thought maybe you were from the State of Confusion.”

Having a favorite park is a fine thing, but it’s always good to keep things in perspective–and in their proper state!

Jim Burnett


Life – it’s an adventure…. Find something to smile about today!

This story is excerpted from the book Hey Ranger 2 © 2007 by Jim Burnett and Taylor Trade Publishing, used by permission.

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  3. Thanks for your work as volunteers. In today’s world, it would be impossible to operate parks and provide services to visitors without the help of people like you!


  4. Andrew Orton

    We have a State Park near our house that we love. It is a great campground and so quiet and relaxing. This summer, we are doing the Host Camping program that lets us volunteer at the park and help with some routine things and in return we get free camping.