Park Ranger Robert Mahoney
Park Service Profiles
The Obvious Career Choice
Robert Mahoney always had a love for nature and being outdoors, so when his middle school guidance counselor asked him what he wanted to do, the answer was obvious.
The Sumter native received his formal education at Clemson University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Park Management/Wildlife Biology in 2001.
While in school, he interned at Santee State Park, which he said prepared him for the various aspects of a ranger’s job and helped to get his feet in the door. It was no surprise when he became a Ranger I at Santee State Park in 2000.
From Santee, Mahoney moved to a Ranger l position at Oconee State Park. Next was Jones Gap State Park/Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area as a Ranger II.
“Jones Gap has to be my favorite park,” said Mahoney. “Having over 10,000 acres of pure wilderness is always fun to explore.”
From Jones Gap, Mahoney was assigned to Devils Fork, a scenic park on Lake Jocassee in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he currently works. Duties here include scheduling, resource management activities, interpretation, operations and maintenance. He also serves as a training instructor and a constable.
Mahoney said the most satisfying things about his job are the smiles and conversations he gets from families as they are leaving the park.
“Knowing the service we provide is not only educational but also brings a sense of fulfillment to those who visit the park is so rewarding and makes it all worth while.”
Of course, with the rewards come the pain, Mahoney said. Like seeing the faces of parents and loved ones when they’ve lost someone in an accident. “It’s very hard,” he said.
But, according to Mahoney, there are times when you just wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Like the time he was looking at Wooly Adelgids on an Eastern Hemlock Tree at Jones Gap. “I accidentally slipped down the bank into the Middle Saluda River. Park guests were nearby and started waving to me because they thought I was just playing in the river.”
Mahoney would definitely encourage others to become a park ranger. “It’s a great job and a great opportunity to always learn new things.”
Since this story was written, Robert has been promoted to park manager at Aiken State Park.