People are inspired to join the National Park Service for a variety of reasons — from a dedication to preservation to a love for national resources — but for V.I. National Park Visitor Resource Protection Ranger Greg Johnston it’s all about helping people.
After spending a month on St. John this summer on a work detail, the Iowa native is looking forward to hitting the waters.
“With the park service there is the resource protection, which is a legacy I can provide for, and the ability to make a difference in people’s lives,” Johnston said. “I can jump someone’s car if their battery is dead or help take a picture so both of the people can be in it. Little things like that can really make your day.”
Johnston moved to St. John and started duty just two weeks ago.
“I was excited to get the permanent position here,” said Johnston. “I’m an avid kayaker and I love all watersports. It is great to be able to both work on the water and recreate on the water.”
The law enforcement ranger started out with the National Park Service in Yellowstone National Park in 1992 and quickly fell in love with the vocation.
“I started out taking a job at Yellowstone one summer during college and I fell in love with the park service and the job,” Johnston said. “My start working for the park service was doing computer database management, but I didn’t really like the office work part so much, so I decided to do something more visitor-oriented.”
“I’ve been in law enforcement since 1995 and I love the interaction with the public,” he added.
Although Johnston spent the last six years in the Blue Ridge Parkway, he has worked in parks from Gulf Islands National Seashore to Perry’s Landing.
“I’ve been pretty much all over except California,” said the VINP ranger. “A lot of those jobs were seasonal and six-month appointments. My last job in Blue Ridge Parkway was my longest stay.”
“I really enjoyed that community and had a house there,” Johnston continued. “It was kind of tough leaving, but I’m having a great time here.”
Residing near the Blue Ridge Parkway, Johnston actually made connections to St. John.
“I worked with Martha Bogle at the Blue Ridge Parkway,” Johnston said about the former interim VINP superintendent. “It’s so big up there though, that we didn’t meet. We actually met when she came down here on detail and I came down on detail too.”
Used to Island ife
While living on a small island might be difficult for some people, it is nothing new for Johnston.
“I’ve lived on smaller islands than this,” he said. “This is actually pretty developed for some of the places I’ve lived.”
While waiting for his kayak to arrive in the mail, Johnston has been keeping busy snorkeling, getting to know his new park and — true to his word — devising ways to help the community.
“I look forward to working with the community and all the local businesses to try to develop a comprehensive protection plan,” Johnston said. “I’m big into community policing. The only way to be able to accomplish the protection of the resources and community safety, both vehicle and vessel safety, is through a public-oriented program.”
Instead of just working to protect the community, Johnston views the community as integral to his success on the job.
“I’m not going to be able to do my job unless there is an active community effort to assist with problem solving, community participation and partnerships,” the law enforcement ranger said. “There are a lot of important aspects to working together. This is the only way we are going to be able to protect this valuable resource that is the park and make sure it is here for our children and their children.”
Johnston is always willing to lend a hand to someone in need, so people should not be afraid to ask, he explained.
“Every day there is something you can do to make a difference,” said Johnston. “No matter how insignificant it might be, you can always do something. I focus on the positive things and not much really brings me down.”