Although it took Ludric Smith more than 30 years to find his true calling as a V.I. National Park ranger, the St. Thomas-born and St. John-raised law enforcement specialist brings priceless local knowledge to his post.
While he has long been interested in law enforcement, Smith — who has a 100 ton captain’s license and served four years in the V.I. National Guard — ran ferry boats and barges for years before he decided on his final career in 2003.
“I always wanted to do law enforcement and I did take the V.I. Police Department’s test, but then I decided I didn’t want to be a police officer necessarily,” said Smith. “I am a licensed U.S. captain and I used to run ferry boats and car barges. Then I ran the Island Girl for a while where I used to take cruise ship passengers to Trunk Bay.”
It was during his stint running Island Girl that Smith got interested working for the VINP.
“When I was running Island Girl I would do speeches about the National Park and the importance of protecting the natural resources,” Smith said. “Then I started thinking how the law enforcement department probably needed local knowledge and people who knew about boats. So I decided to seek a job with the National Park.”
The process was not an easy one. Smith spent about a year filling out paperwork and training for the post before donning his khakis.
“It was a very difficult thing,” said Smith. “There was a lot of paperwork and I had to put myself through the seasonal academy in order to qualify for the job in the first place. But it has turned out to be very educational and very fun, so it was worth it.”
Smith’s arduous path to becoming a ranger was eased a bit by his background.
“I think having my military background was a really good thing,” said the VINP law enforcement ranger. “I really think the military background helps as far as when you apply for any job, but it helped a lot with this because they know that I’ve fired a weapon.”
While the early morning schedule is the least desirable part of his job, Smith loves being outdoors.
“I get to work outside which is my favorite,” he said. “I get to be in the outdoors instead of in an office which is great.”
Smith recently returned from Biscayne National Park in Florida which is almost entirely comprised of water and sees a lot more activity than the VINP.
“Up in Florida we were dealing with a lot of Cubans trying to enter the U.S. and drug runners and a lot of activity,” said Smith. “Down here I mostly deal with people on the beach as far as keeping their dogs on leashes and not having glass on the beach.”
Bridging Community, VINP
Being a VINP ranger and a native Virgin Islander, Smith often bridges the two communities and fosters better communication.
“Being that I’m a local, I get to interact with a lot of locals and educate people about the VINP,” said Smith. “I tell people the reason we have a National Park is so their children and future generations will be able to enjoy the natural resources. Having this park is a very important and valuable thing.”
The law enforcement ranger hopes to one day raise in the ranks of the VINP administration.
“My actual goal is not to be the chief ranger, but I would like to be a supervisory ranger,” Smith said. “I’d like to educate school children and youngsters about how to become a VINP ranger. It’s a long process but it helps to know what to expect.”
The VINP law enforcement ranger did just that recently when he participated in the Julius E. Sprauve School’s Career Week. Smith spoke about working in the park to students in the fourth through sixth grades.
The students listened carefully and poured over maps and other informational hands out Smith provided. It seemed Smith might have even recruited a future VINP ranger.
“I want to work in the park when I grow up and help protect the environment,” said one fourth grader.
Smith himself actually almost missed the cut-off age to even apply for a law enforcement position.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but you can’t become a law enforcement ranger after the age of 37,” he said. “I was 32 when I started the process, so I was cutting it a bit close.”
Sharing Experience With Others
Although the seasonal academy is difficult, knowing someone who went through it themselves helps a lot, Smith explained.
“There were some points during the academy that I actually wanted to give up,” he said. “But I kept up with it and I’m actually here now. It’s a great feeling and I think I could help others with what to expect and how to get through the process.”