By Hannah Cross

Ranger Rickey Blank will celebrate 50 years with the Washington State Park Service (WSP) on June 1, making him the organization’s longest-serving ranger. Blank currently works as a ranger at Peace Arch State Park, having worked at 19 parks and parks throughout his career.

“I like to say I came to Peace Arch by natural law,” Blank said. “I had a lot of opportunities but I’m happy to have finished here.”

He said that Peace Arch is an exceptional place to meet people from all over the world and has given him the opportunity to stay close to his daughters who reside in Vancouver, British Columbia, as well as his church and the extracurricular activities he he likes, like the ballroom. and country dancing.

Blank began his career as a seasonal park assistant at Sequim Bay State Park on June 1, 1970, the day after he graduated from high school. He thought it would be temporary as he wanted to go to college to be a high school teacher and basketball coach at the time, but quickly fell in love with the parks. After two full years of service as a seasonal park aide and youth corps supervisor from 1970 to 1973, he became a park ranger on February 10, 1974.

His next big career move was working as an operations and maintenance officer at Deception Pass State Park for 30 years. It was from there that Blank was transferred to Peace Arch.

He said that as an older ranger who had worked for WSP for almost half of its existence, WSP management believed he was the ideal candidate. “Since I started at Peace Arch on January 1, 2019, I have done my best to provide top quality customer service with a smile every day,” he said.

Amber Forest, who is a park ranger and regional manager for Whatcom County, said she has worked with Blank in the same region and agency since she started with WSP in 2000 as a park aide when he was stationed at Deception Pass.

“I became Rickey’s supervisor in 2018 and since then have had the pleasure and honor of supervising someone like Ranger Blank,” she said. “He is articulate, driven, detail oriented, has excellent customer service skills, is a tremendous asset to our community and a pleasure to work with.”

Forest said Blank brings a passion for his work and loves interacting with people visiting Peace Arch.

“He has extensive knowledge and experience in grounds maintenance and gardening which is very useful for his new resort,” she said. “He is an absolutely wonderful human being, and I and the staff want to congratulate him on his 50 years of service.”

Sherri Button and her family were one of many families separated by the Canada-US border closure who met regularly at the park during the pandemic.

“Ranger Rick has had such a positive impact on the park,” she said. The northern light in an email. “He works hard every day to keep it beautiful and well maintained so people can enjoy its true beauty.”

Button said it was obvious how much Blank really cared about the park and his desire for everyone to enjoy it. She said Blank handled the influx of park visitors well during the pandemic and was always kind when asking people to follow the rules.

She also said she and her family are beyond grateful for Blank’s work in keeping the park open and allowing families to visit during the closure of nearby BC Peace Arch Provincial Park. She described him as a light in the world that brought hope to many cross-border couples and families.

“It really was a tough time and still is, not being able to visit the ones you love at all times, but he made the tough time a bit more bearable,” Button said. “Without him, my parents would not have been able to see my first son and their first grandchild.”

Blank said he was lucky enough to raise four daughters in state parks.

“My favorite memory is of that tree stump in Bowman Bay that we used as a stage,” he said. “My daughters were playing, singing, telling stories, giving speeches and reciting poems to me while I sat on the lawn.”

He said he also enjoyed being able to serve and connect with other families around the world, including hosting many weddings in the park. Peace Arch had 70 wedding bookings in 2019, over 120 bookings in 2021 and is expected to have over 200 bookings this year. Wedding reservations for indoor park facilities are secured by calling the park at 360/332-8221 for more information.

Blank said that in his 50 years he has seen the park system grow and change in exciting ways. He helped set up attractive information brochures, reservation systems, equipment upgrades and the permanent hiring of five new park staff.

“I’ve been very lucky to have good staff and a community that appreciates our hard work,” he said. Friends of Peace Arch State Park donated nearly $1,300 and a week later Blaine’s Chamber of Commerce awarded the park more than $2,000 because it remained open during the pandemic. , said Blank.

Thanks to these generous donations, Blank said park staff have added additional plants, shrubs and trees and plan to continue to service the park to meet the immediate and future needs of the community. “We are currently thinking of ways to make the park even more accessible and enjoyable for everyone who comes to visit,” he said.

Blank said he hopes he never has to retire because working for WSP continues to bring him as much joy as the day he started.

“I realize how blessed I have been throughout these 50 years,” he said. “I can’t thank the visiting public and community enough for all the opportunities and all the memories so far.”