Becky’s job is all about the outdoors, and she would not have it any other way. Becky is a recreation technician on the Hiawatha National Forest in upper Michigan where among other responsibilities, she manages an island. She believes her job is an adventure and being able to do different things everyday keeps her from ever being bored.
How did you get to where you are professionally today?
Well, it seems I got most of my jobs by luck. I grew up near the Hiawatha National Forest in upper Michigan, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I really understood the national forest that had surrounded me from birth.
After college, I got a job with a regional planning commission as a geographic information systems specialist, which is a cartographer or map maker. I enjoyed my work, but I really wanted to work for a natural resource agency, so I made a change and got a position with the Forest Service as an information receptionist on the Rapid River Ranger District of the Hiawatha. Wow, that was about 10 years ago! I loved that job. It helped me to learn about the Forest Service and various resource areas. It was great!
I got the opportunity to apply for a cartographic technician position on the Munising District. I was back doing what I had gone to college for, but now with an agency where I wanted to be. I was making maps for all of the resource groups and that helped me understand their roles in forest management and helped me build a good foundation.
I applied for a recreation technician detail in 2008, which was a huge learning curve for me. In 2009, I officially became a recreation technician after being a trainee for a year. I’m having fun in this position.
What is a typical day like for you?
My main duties are managing the daily operations and maintenance of Grand Island National Recreation Area and the developed recreation sites such as campgrounds, boat launches and trailheads on the Munising Ranger District .
I work with the concessionaires and campground hosts in our district, and supervise one seasonal employee and five volunteers/interns who help me manage the recreation sites. Summer is super busy as it is our peak season. I spend a lot of time hopping between campgrounds on the mainland, the mainland office and the Island.
Operating an island, which is also a national recreation area, can be very challenging logistically. I am responsible for campsites, trails, buildings, fleet maintenance, recreation residence and concessionaire permit administration, the operation of a tug boat and barge, interpretive services and the maintenance of historic structures on Grand Island. On the mainland, I monitor our campground concessionaire permits and manage projects within our developed recreation sites. Winter is a bit more relaxed, and we spend most of our time and effort planning for the next summer. I do get to help my co-worker with various winter projects that take me outdoors to enjoy the snow.
The Island offers primitive camping, hiking, fishing, boating and mountain biking. The island has an incredible history. We offer interpretive bus tours, self-guided historic hikes which showcase some of the Island’s history and some of the most spectacular views and beaches I’ve ever seen.
Who has had the greatest influence on you during your life?
I would have to say my parents. Growing up as a kid, our family was always vacationing somewhere. My parents were not afraid to take us on great adventures like panning for gold in the Yukon Territory. They also taught my brother and me that hard work pays off in the long run. My dad taught us the importance of managing the forest, how to hunt, trap and fish and how those things play an important role in our local economy.
Did you have any favorite books or movies growing up?
I absolutely loved “Indiana Jones” from the very first movie I saw. He was my hero! My parents laughed at me because I would always want to watch his movies on TV. I wanted to be an archaeologist because of him. But after I got a “C” in my first archaeology class in college, I decided to pursue other avenues.
I did have two National Geographic books I loved growing up: one about mummies that encouraged my archaeologist dream and one about animals, which inspired my next dream to be a zoologist. I thought working in a zoo with big cats would be a great job! Once I realized that most zoos were located in big cities, I decided that maybe that job that wasn’t for me.
What are you most thankful for?
Believe it or not, I’m currently living and raising my family in the house where I grew up. My goal was to get back to this area that I love, and I did it in an amazingly short period of time. I feel grateful I was able to ultimately be in a place where I want to finish my career. I’m working in my own backyard and getting paid for it. I really enjoy making sure the locals know about the recreation opportunities here and try to get them out in the forest.
What kinds of things do you do with your family?
Our kids keep me super busy. My husband Jason and I have a 6 and an 8 year old. I’m a Daisy Scout troop leader for my daughter’s troop. I was never a Girl Scout, so I’m living vicariously through my daughter. My son is a Cub Scout and into sports, so they keep us on our toes!
In my rare free time, I love yoga. It is a huge stress reliever for me and I’ve begun to encourage my co-workers to join me. It’s great to unwind and rest your mind for a while.
As a family, we go camping a lot and because my summer work schedule is very hectic, we plan at least two weeks just to have family time.
Gardening is also a great family event for us. We have a vegetable and flower garden, and I’m trying to get the kids involved so they understand the importance of knowing how to grow things.
What haven’t you done that you wish you would have thus far in your career?
A lot of my coworkers started as seasonal employees in one place and bounced around and experienced different forests and locations before becoming full-time employees. I, on the other hand, fell into a job at my dream location so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to explore and see other forests for the great opportunities available elsewhere.
I did start out as a seasonal employee like many Forest Service folks do early in their career, but I think I would have been a more well-rounded employee if I had the opportunity to work in different areas and forests.