Colorado has many beautiful natural areas and parks. The main four national parks are the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain National Park. All get thousands of visitors every year, both from within Colorado and from other states, and all have park rangers tasked with keeping things safe.
That’s not an easy job, and it can be a downright hazardous job. In 2019, that’s nothing new. Reports have been coming out for years that the risks are just getting greater for park rangers. People said it in 2005 and again in 2012 and they’re still saying it today.
The natural risks
Rangers face a number of natural risks in the course of doing their jobs, depending on the specifics of what they’re doing that day. Any time that you spend in nature is somewhat unpredictable, and they certainly spend a lot of time outside. Among other risky jobs, they may have to:
- Help fight fires, especially as wildfires sweep the state
- Get to stranded hikers and attempt to get them to safety
- Help climbers after an accident
- Put up signs for mountain biking, skiing, hiking, snowshoeing and many other activities
- Monitor these activities as people enjoy them
- Help visitors when bad weather strikes or there is a natural disaster
- Get to remote areas of the park as quickly as possible
- Teach other rangers and visitors emergency medicine
The parks are wild places. When people get into trouble in these places, it’s the rangers who have to go in and assist. They do it with cars and truck, on foot, on ATVs and even with helicopters.
That type of work simply comes with a lot of risks. Rangers get hurt all of the time, even when they don’t make any mistakes. It’s just a hard job to do and things can and do go wrong.
The issue of violence
Another part of the equation is that rangers sometimes have to operate as police officers and deal with violence in the parks. People have attacked them. Some rangers have been killed. Others have engaged in police chases and pursuits.
One thing that they note is that the visitors all bring their own personalities and traits with them. Those who would assault others at home will do the same thing when they visit Rocky Mountain National Park or any other area in the state. When it happens, the rangers have to be ready to respond.
Like all other workers, park rangers need to know their legal options when they get hurt on the job. In such a hazardous profession, it’s especially important for them to know what steps to take.