Detroit Boy’s Glacier Camping Trip Leads Him to Ranger | Michigan News


By CHAD SOKOL, Daily Inter Lake

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) – During his freshman year at Michigan State University, Pete Webster spotted an ad in the college newspaper for seasonal jobs in Glacier National Park. The former Boy Scout, who grew up in Detroit, jumped at the chance to work outdoors.

His first job, however, was not what he expected. In the kitchen of St. Mary Lodge and Resort, Webster was given a knife and the day’s whitefish catch.

“It was sort of the lodge’s signature dish. They had a sign that said “Caught Fresh Daily”. And so I was given the job of filleting – trying to learn how to fillet – the fish, and that’s not something I liked, ”he recalls with a chuckle in a recent interview. “I don’t think I was very good at it either.

Fast forward 35 years. Webster, 54, has spent about a third of his career at Glacier, a third in Yellowstone National Park where he served as Chief Ranger, and a third in other national parks along the way. . He is now the Interim Superintendent of Glacier, overseeing all aspects of the park, from law enforcement and facilities to conservation and public education.

Photos to see – May 2021

Webster spent two years in the park’s No. 2 leadership role and took the helm in April, when Superintendent Jeff Mow left to take on the role of the National Park Service’s Acting Regional Director for Alaska Parks. Webster said he plans it to be a temporary gig; Mow is expected to return to Glacier towards the end of August, when Webster would return to his old post as Deputy Superintendent.

But with another visitor season quickly approaching, Webster won’t be relaxing at work anytime soon, the Daily Inter Lake reported.

Park officials predict that the number of visitors in 2021 will reach or break records as the coronavirus pandemic abates, travel and trade restrictions are lifted, and those vaccinated will feel more comfortable removing mask them and visit new places.

Traffic is a major concern for Webster and other park officials, who this year implemented a controversial reservation system to limit the number of vehicles on the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor. To further complicate matters, construction is planned throughout the summer along US 2 near the popular western entrance to the park.

“In the last few years – 2015, more or less – visits have hit the threshold that is beyond our capacity,” Webster said. “The ability of the park’s infrastructure, road network, and staff to safely protect the park, protect visitors, and provide a good experience.”

Webster traces his love for Glacier back to an overnight family camping trip to the park as a child. He remembers meeting a ranger at the Logan Pass Visitor Center who left a lasting impression.

“From there I kind of decided I wanted to be somewhere in Montana, and the park was really something that attracted me,” he said.

“I love the mountains,” he added. “You know, Detroit is something we didn’t have there.

After a brief stint as a fish filler at St. Mary’s in the summer of 1986, Webster was given another job behind a deli counter, making sandwiches and picking up ice cream, then another job as a deli. frying cook.

He spent the next two summers “hitchhiking and hiking in the park,” he said. “And from there, it got me an internship at Walton Park that year. And that’s really where I learned, OK, what the next steps in becoming a ranger are.

Webster spent his last summer in college working at an entrance position in Yellowstone, upholding his decision to attend a seasonal law enforcement academy in California the following year.

His first permanent job as a ranger was in Alaska. “And then,” he says, “I went to Yellowstone and worked Old Faithful for about five years, and that’s really where I grew up as a ranger.”

Webster was largely living off the grid at the time, but he wasn’t alone. Two of his three children were born while he was posted to Old Faithful. He and his wife raised the toddlers for several winters in the park, their cabin completely snow-covered.

Webster worked as a seasonal ranger at Glacier in the 1990s and 2000s and spent stints as deputy chief ranger at Shenandoah National Park outside of Washington, DC, and chief ranger at Denali National Park in Alaska. He returned to Yellowstone in 2015 and held the position of Chief Ranger there until 2019, when he was hired for the position of Assistant Superintendent at Glacier.

Webster encountered many bears during his time in the backcountry. Once, he recalls, he and other rangers, with the help of Karelian bear dogs, tried to deter a large grizzly sow from getting too close to hikers and campers at Glacier. It didn’t go particularly well.

“We ended up in a situation where she came back and accused us,” he said. “And then, luckily with the dogs and all of us there, we were able to keep her away until she found out where her cubs were. Once she did that, they all got together and left.

Webster said his outlook for his work and the aspects he finds most rewarding have evolved over the years.

“The first thing that attracted me was just the personal experience as a kid,” he said. “I was drawn to the mountains, the park in particular, and Montana as a whole. And then, barely out the first couple of years, it was mostly more personal experiences – hiking, being with friends and so on. “

But as he settled into his role as a ranger, Webster quickly began to focus on the educational and interpretive aspects of the job, helping visitors understand the importance of conservation and making emotional connections with the nature.

“As I grew up as a ranger and interacted more with the public,” he said, “it wasn’t just about protecting the park, but also coming up with meaningful experiences.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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