Ranger Olivia Vásquez

Park Service Profiles

In this month's Park Service Profile, we are meeting Ranger Olivia Vásquez from Hickory Knob State Resort Park! Originally from Grovetown, Georgia, near Augusta, Olivia pursued her passion for the outdoors and education by transitioning from teaching to becoming a park ranger. Olivia's educational background includes a bachelor's degree in Spanish and Economics from Berry College, followed by a master's degree in teaching secondary social studies.She joined the South Carolina State Parks team in June 2023, starting her ranger journey at Baker Creek State Park before moving to her current position at Hickory Knob.

Preparing for her role as a park ranger involved a diverse range of activities, from mastering knowledge of local flora and fauna to learning park maintenance:

"I spent most of my time trying to learn all about the flora and fauna of the area. I’m familiar with the Savannah River area, but I wanted to be able to share specific and accurate information about our local ecology. I also knew that part of the ranger position was rule enforcement, so I took an online course on de-escalation to prepare myself for enforcing the rules of the park. I had never done any type of maintenance work before, so I spent a lot of time with our staff at Baker Creek to learn as much as I could about operating landscaping equipment, fixing water or electrical issues, and managing fallen trees after bad weather. Elise, our senior ranger, and Matt, our assistant manager, taught me all that I know about carpentry and how to use the tools available to improve and beautify our park."

At Hickory Knob, Olivia manages the campground host program, sets up meeting spaces, and conducts park safety inspections. Her favorite part of the job is hosting educational programs that engage visitors of all ages, allowing her to share her passion for nature and state parks. She says, "I love the opportunity to immerse myself in the moments where folks come out to enjoy the program! During my last program, I was able to sign my very first Junior Ranger 3 form, which was a highlight of my park work so far. To see a young person excited about state parks and nature is what it’s all about for me!"

She shares this story with us about a project she is proud of and the unpredictable force of nature:

"Last summer at Baker Creek we had a storm with very strong winds come through and it knocked a few trees down. One of the trees fell on a bridge, so we repaired it as quickly as possible and I was extremely proud of it! It was the first carpentry job I was able to work on, and Elise guided me while I took measurements, cut the wood, and installed the repair. I took so many pictures and was so happy with the work we had done, and one week later another storm came and took out that exact same side of the bridge. It was a great reminder that part of working with nature is that nothing is ever guaranteed, no matter how proud you are of it!"

Despite the challenges, such as late-night shifts and unpredictable weather, Olivia finds fulfillment in her role. She appreciates the contrast between the serene atmosphere of Baker Creek and the lively energy of Hickory Knob. Her dedication to service, love for the environment, and appreciation for nature's beauty define her ranger experience.

For those considering a career with the park service, Olivia emphasizes the importance of a genuine love for the outdoors. She advises aspiring rangers to embrace learning from experienced colleagues and to be prepared for the diverse challenges of the job:

"Embrace the opportunity to learn from those with more experience. I didn’t study park management, maintenance, or even environmental science, but I have been blessed with peers and mentors that share as much as they can with me as often as possible. Be willing to learn every moment of every day from those who came before you."

In summary, Olivia describes her ranger experience as guided by enthusiasm for service, a passion for the local environment, and a nurturing embrace of nature.

While Olivia is not yet an "Ultimate Outsider," she looks forward to exploring more state parks, with Aiken State Park at the top of her list for its promising opportunities for paddling along the Edisto River.

Thank you, Olivia, for your hard work and dedication to the state park service! Think you might be interested in a job with the South Carolina State Park Service? Click here to see our current job openings!