A Conversation with Gloria Beauchamp, Park Manager of Lovers Key State Park
Q: How did you get into the Park Ranger/Manager business?
A: I started with the Division of Recreation & Parks in 2001 as a Park Ranger. Over the years I have worked at several different state parks, including Hillsborough River, Lake Manatee and Honeymoon Island.
Q: What kind of education or training is needed to work in the State Parks?
A: I have a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida. I knew I wanted to work outdoors and teach people about the environment so they want to conserve it for the future. When I applied for my first State Park job, I really didn’t know what I was getting into – but the first day on the job I knew it was for me.
Kimberlee Tennille was a more senior ranger and she took me under her wing and showed me park policies and taught me about interpretation. She inspired me to be the best ranger I could be. She is still my mentor today. She is at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: The diversity of the job. I manage concession contracts, capital improvement projects, budgets, and work with other agencies and coordinate projects. But it is not just a desk job. I also get to go out into the park and survey natural resources such as shore birds and exotic plant removal.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
A: Balancing the needs of the visitor and the resources so that the visitor can enjoy their time at the park while the resources are still protected and managed.
Q: Have you had any unusual experiences at Lovers Key?
A: Last January there was a pod of pilot whales that stranded themselves in New Pass. A few were stranded on Lovers Key and one unfortunately did not make it. It was an unusual experience to see such a beautiful creature on the beach. Pilot whales live off the shelf in the deep waters of the Gulf.
Q: How many staff do you have and what are their most important responsibilities?
A: There are 13 staff and many volunteers at Lovers Key State Park. Many people don’t realize that we take care of almost all the needs of the park. Trees are trimmed, grass is mowed, bathrooms are cleaned, injured animals are caught, vehicle and building repairs are made, educational programs are conducted and so much more all by Park Rangers and volunteers.
Q: What is it like to live at your workplace?
A: There are definitely pros and cons. When I step outside my house, I’m at work. But I’m in this beautiful park. I don’t have to drive to go to a beautiful natural area. Three park staff and their families live on Lovers Key to respond to after-hour emergencies and patrol the park at night.