On patrol in Webster County parks

Russell helps ensure parks stay in top shape

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Park Ranger Reed Russell talks about changes going on at Badger Lake in Kennedy Park, just shortly after he started his job in late September. One of Russell's first jobs was to help create more of a beach here for kayak and canoe launch.

As Webster County’s newest park ranger, Reed Russell has a role in law enforcement throughout the county parks — and in keeping those parks in shape.

Russell started his duties in late September, and when he’s not patrolling the campgrounds, sometimes he can be found cutting down trees or working on the beaches.

“Right now they have me doing some maintenance work,” Russell said in his first two weeks on the job. “On the weekends I’m assisting the current park rangers, getting the hang of how they run the park. Working the campground, checking in campers, cleaning the shelters. During the week I’m cutting trees, mowing grass, also working at the boat ramp building some drainage and new beach area for kayakers to launch. I’ve got a couple projects going.”

Russell will attend the law enforcement academy for 16 weeks starting in January, after which he’ll start on regular patrol.

Conservation work has been a lifelong passion for Russell, a 2012 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Park Ranger Reed Russell will be cutting down some of the older, rotted-out trees at Kennedy Park.

The ranger got his associate’s degree from Kirkwood Community College, and then graduated Upper Iowa University in Fayette with a degree in Conservation Management.

In 2012, he worked at Dolliver State Park. In 2013, he worked at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, where his office is now.

“In 2014, I was in Council Bluffs with the Iowa DNR Law Enforcement Bureau as a water patrol officer, and three years after that I was in Coralville on the Coralville reservoir doing the same thing,” he said.

Water patrol was a seasonal job, and Russell had a lot of experience with kayaks. He’ll now be helping with Webster County’s kayak rental program.

He’ll also be putting on hunter ed programs with the schools.

“I’m going to be doing a lot with shooting sports. Trap shooting, skeet shooting,” he said.

The first time he worked at Kennedy, Russell got the chance to ride along with the rangers, and found a passion for law enforcement.

Having a variety of duties, and doing enforcement only some of the time, is a perk.

“My passion is hunting and fishing,” he said. “If you’re doing law enforcement 24/7, you don’t really get the chance to fix up the areas you’re using.

“Or when people come up to you and say, ‘I wish you guys could do this,’ being in a position where I can do both, I can make those changes to help improve recreational activity. … I can make those changes I hear when I’m checking fishing licenses or when I’m checking gear licenses.”

When you have a law enforcement background, you see more things you might overlook as a seasonal worker, Russell said. Sometimes you know more what to expect.

“Working in law enforcement you see a lot of variety in how people treat you,” he said. “Working as just a regular seasonal, no law enforcement background, people aren’t as aggressive to you, in a sense.

“I’m speaking in a broad sense right now, but people have a higher expectation for you since you’re in a law enforcement position.”

And every weekend is different when you’re overseeing a campground.

“There could be a lot of people in the campground one day of the week, and the next it’s everybody’s in bed at 10:30, and you’re stuck just driving around,” he said.

Being able to connect with the community is what he loves about his job.

“I’m in a position where I come into contact with a lot of people every day. I enjoy talking to people, seeing how their fishing’s going, passing on their knowledge to other people fishing I see,” Russell said. “In my opinion, this position is about building a strong relationship with the community … getting kids out and enjoying nature, and getting people back outdoors.”