Park Manager Joy Raintree
Park Service Profiles
Protecting the Resource for Generations to Come
Joy Raintree, the park manager at Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site, says she likes to think that she came into her profession through the back door. Raintree, who has a background in history and anthropology, says it was her love of the outdoors and history that got her where she is today.
Joy grew up in Bedford, Virginia at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she hiked with her family almost every weekend. She attended James Madison University and received a Bachelor of Science in anthropology with a concentration in archaeology. After receiving her undergraduate degree, Joy began her move south and attended North Carolina State where she studied Public History. She says that after receiving her master’s degree, finding meaningful employment was a struggle.
“I distinctly remember the month I graduated with my master’s degree in May 2001 that one of the headlines in the Raleigh paper read, Historic Sites to Cut 128 Positions.”
In October 2002, Joy found her way to South Carolina when she accepted the position of park interpreter at Redcliffe Plantation. Two years later, Joy was promoted to park manager at the historic site. Everything she learned about being a park ranger happened on the job. Besides learning about the museum, she had to learn how to use a chainsaw, drive a tractor and learn how to manage people, all tasks she had never done before.
For Joy, a typical day at Redcliffe involves any number of activities, from presenting a program about slaves to 100 third graders to housekeeping or lawn maintenance. However, the variety of activities is what she enjoys the most about her job. No matter what task she’s completing, Joy says she’s still protecting the site’s resources and educating visitors about the plantation’s significance.
Of course, as with other jobs, there is the occasional unexpected, embarrassing moment. When she was eight months pregnant and painting one of the mansion roofs, the 60 foot lift she was using suddenly stopped working. High above the ground, Joy decided to crouch down on the lift and wait for the interpreter to finish the house tour and come to her rescue.
“What I did not realize was that part of his tour was going to involve opening the door that would bring me eye-to-eye with his entire tour group,” she says.
Joy admits that despite the passion she has for her work at Redcliffe, there are tough realities of maintaining a historical site. For Joy, it’s difficult to know that Redcliffe is a historically rich site deserving of a staff of 20 people, something that is financially unrealistic for most historic sites. Redcliffe has a significant amount of first-hand information about plantation life and the people who lived there, but the site is often underutilized.
Although Joy doesn’t work at a recreational state park and her day-to-day job is much different from managing a campground, there are still similarities that she believes all park managers face.
“In the end we are all protecting resources while providing access to them,” she says. “The day-to-day may be different, but I bet the way we feel about our cultural and natural resources is very much the same – wanting to protect them for generations to come.”