Meet the park rangers of the Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WKRN) – Every hero has an origin story. The park rangers of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are no different. Learn more about the men and women working to preserve and protect the Great Smoky Mountains.

Brad Free: A Student of History

Brad Free
Brad Free, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Historian.

“I’ve always wanted to be a park ranger. I’ve hiked and camped in the Smokies, even back in the 1980s, and I never dreamed that a couple of years later, I would actually get a full-time job in the Smokies as an interpretive park ranger.”

Christine Hoyer: A Research Psychologist

Christine Hoyer
Christine Hoyer, Park Ranger

“As a young child, my family traveled around in national parks. I always had that in mind as being a nature kid and wanting to be out there in the uniform, representing the National Park Service. It took me quite a while to get there, and quite a story to make my way to the Smokies, but that’s what started at all.”

Kristine Johnson: A Philosopher Turned Forester

Kristine Johnson
Kristine Johnson, Supervisory Forester

“Every day off I was traveling to a national park or traveling somewhere to hike or backpack. So I decided I would try and make what I did, what I loved, into a career. So I jumped out of [the research] field onto the Appalachian trail as a volunteer. Learned to build the trail, lead the crews, went across the world during that time to help develop a trail program and came here about 12 years ago.”

Bill Stiver: A Wildlife Biologist

Bill Stiver
Bill Stiver, Supervisory Wildlife Biologist

“I thought about what I liked, and I ended up going back to graduate school in forestry. I worked for the forest service for about a year and a half. Then I got a job at Chickamauga Battlefield with the park service. I thought, ‘Yeah, this is it.’ I like working with people, I like sharing the story of the parks and our areas. Yet, I still get to be a scientist and still work in natural resources.”

Lisa Nagurny: A Would-be Veterinarian

Lisa Nagurny
Lisa Nagurny, Park Ranger

“I grew up hunting and fishing all my life and really enjoyed that throughout my childhood and teenage years and just fell into this career, if you will. I knew I wanted to work with animals.”

Florie Takaki: A Storyteller

Florie Takaki
Florie Takaki, Park Ranger

“I grew up in Southern New Jersey and we went to Independence Hall. While we were going through, as most 8th graders do, I wasn’t exactly a student listening and paying attention. But when we got into the Great Hall, and the ranger spoke to us about signing the Declaration of Independence, he actually made us see what was happening…And when we turned to leave I was in the back of the group, and I turned behind me and looked, and the ranger pulled something out of his back pocket. When he did he flicked it and it was white-tipped, he was blind. Totally blind, yet he had made us see…something we had never seen before. And I turned to my friend at the time and said to her, when I grow up, I’m going to tell stories like that.”


News 2 is taking a deep look in the Smokies with the digital exclusive series “The Great Smoky Mountains: The Good, The Bad, The Future”. Click here to see more.

Janet Ivey is a special correspondent for News 2 on this report. Learn more about her here.

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