Interpretive Ranger Laura Ledford
Park Service Profiles
Not many people can say they had their dream career planned out at the age of eight or nine years old; however, that’s not the case for Ranger Laura Ledford. In the third grade Ranger Laura knew she wanted to do living history, and by the 6th grade she knew that being a historian was the career for her. “Growing up, I attended lots of programs led by rangers and museum educators. I didn’t think that I would ever be lucky enough to have a job like that, so I decided that I should be a history teacher…but I still dreamed about working at a museum or a historic site,” she said.
Growing up, Ranger Laura’s family taught her valuable lessons that she believes helps her in her current role as a park ranger. “My grandmothers taught me about budgeting, cleaning, accounting, textiles, serving the public and the importance of working hard. My grandfathers taught me about public service, history, and protecting our natural and culture resources. I had one grandfather who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps and served as a caretaker for what is now Aiken Gopher Tortoise Heritage Preserve Wildlife Management area, and spent many years visiting our national parks and historic sites. Another grandfather was an avid reader who served in the U.S. Navy and was a Boy Scout. My “extra” grandfather was in the U.S. Army and was a ranger at Aiken State Park,” Ranger Laura said.
We asked Ranger Laura what one misconception about park rangers is and she said “I think one common misconception is that we ride around in trucks all day or sit a desk all day with nothing to do. When it is quite the contrary. A ranger’s job is never done!” As the Interpretive Ranger at Andrew Jackson State Park, Ranger Laura handles a lot of duties and responsibilities, so we also asked her about some of the activities she performs on her job. Laughing, she said, “It would probably be easier to name the things that I haven’t done on the job! But some of the responsibilities I have are, promoting and conducting field trips and off-site programs for schools and other organizations, operating a museum, maintaining the historical gardens, caring for artifacts, taking reservations and training volunteers and supplemental staff.”
Ranger Laura began working as a park ranger in October 2001 at Andrew Jackson State Park and hasn’t left since, but that hasn’t stopped her from assisting other state parks with interpretive opportunities. Throughout her time as a park ranger, she has helped with programming at Charles Towne Landing, Hickory Knob, Kings Mountain, Lake Greenwood, Battle of Musgrove Mill and Rose Hill state parks. “The most satisfying things about these opportunities is watching someone as they make an emotional connection with the resources and stories that we tell about South Carolina through a program or exhibit that I helped plan, present or create,” Ranger Laura said.
With only five state parks left before she becomes an Ultimate Outsider, Ranger Laura’s most anticipated state park to visit is Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site. “Colonial Dorchester is probably one on the top of the list because I am interested in 18th-century South Carolina history. Plus, my mother just visited recently with my brother and she keeps talking about it.” Ranger Laura said.
Ranger Laura encourages anyone that is up for the job to consider becoming a park ranger, saying, “Come out and play and then come out and volunteer. You will find out if it is the right path for you. You need to be a self-starter with a lot of passion for the resources and drive for providing quality customer service. You also have to be very flexible. There are never two days on a park that are exactly alike.”
Thank you, Ranger Laura, for your hard work and continuous dedication to the South Carolina State Park Service. To see more of what Ranger Laura does at Andrew Jackson State Park watch episode two of the series, "A Day in the Life of a Park Ranger."