Contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District install a 23-foot-tall concrete shaft enclosure weighing approximately 120,000 pounds as part of the guard wall at the Monongahela River Locks and Dam 4 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, Nov. 16, 2023.

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Park Ranger profession a great gig for college grads and beyond

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District
Published June 4, 2024
Park Rangers Remi Clark and Gary Bruce perform safety checks May 29, 2024, with Kayakers Tony and Linda Bishop at Burgess Falls on Center Hill Lake in Sparta Tennessee. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Park Rangers Remi Clark and Gary Bruce perform safety checks May 29, 2024, with Kayakers Tony and Linda Bishop at Burgess Falls on Center Hill Lake in Sparta Tennessee. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Park Rangers Remi Clarke and Gary Bruce depart for a patrol on Center Hill Lake May 29, 2024, from Sligo Marina in Smithville, Tennessee. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Park Rangers Remi Clarke and Gary Bruce depart for a patrol on Center Hill Lake May 29, 2024, from Sligo Marina in Smithville, Tennessee. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 4, 2024) – If you are a college graduate looking for an exciting profession where you can safeguard public lands and assist visitors at Corps lakes, recreation areas, and campgrounds, then being a park ranger just might be your gig.

At Center Hill Lake in Tennessee, Gary Bruce and Remi Clarke are part of a team of park rangers that manage more than 20,000 acres of public lands at summer pool along 415 miles of shoreline, six day-use recreation areas, and 227 campsites at three campgrounds. The park rangers are constantly on the go and are charged with providing visitor assistance and shoreline management, supporting fisheries and wildlife management, and engaging in public outreach programs.

Center Hill Lake in Dekalb, Putnam, Warren, and White counties, received 1,684,364 visitors in 2023, which ranked 44th nationally. The team of park rangers achieved more than 17,000 public outreach contacts, many related to water and boating safety.

During a recent boat patrol to conduct safety checks in the vicinity of Burgess Falls, Bruce and Clarke shared insight about their respective career paths and what motivates them to serve as park rangers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District.

Bruce said he grew up recreating at Old Hickory Lake near Nashville, Tennessee, and always enjoyed hunting, fishing, boating, and hiking. He graduated from Tennessee Tech University with a degree in wildlife in 2000 and received a second degree in biology in 2002, which qualified him for a Corps of Engineers park ranger co-op position.

Over the years, Bruce worked in various positions at Dale Hollow Lake, Old Hickory Lake, J. Percy Priest Lake, as well as the Nashville Regulatory Branch. He spent the majority of his career serving the public at Center Hill Lake.

“The ability to work in an environment that I enjoy and have the opportunity to help people that come to the lake for their recreational adventures has always been a rewarding experience,” Bruce said. “I enjoy what I do and look forward to coming to work each day.”

As a seasoned park ranger with 22 years of experience, Bruce explained that being an effective communicator and having a great attitude are probably at the top of the list of notable attributes for any park ranger. The ability to have positive interaction with visitors is a plus with the diverse roles that park rangers are tasked with performing, he explained.

“One day we might be doing boat patrols, then the next we could be doing food plot work for wildlife,” Bruce said. “I also enjoy introducing young kids to fishing and hunting through various events along with conducting a youth hunt for a small group of kids that have recently completed the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Hunter Safety Program. All of these activities are very rewarding for all involved.”

Clarke is about to complete 30 modules required as part of a two-year training program for new park rangers. She completed a biology degree at Cumberland University in 2018, and served as an intern in the USACE Direct Hire Authority Program from May to August 2018 at Cordell Hull Lake. She then transferred to Center Hill Lake to complete her initial training requirements.

“The modules allow you to get a sneak peak at duties you may be assigned as a park ranger throughout your career,” Clarke said. “During the training program we also go on site visits to each of the lakes, attend a visitor assistance course to obtain our badges and citation authority, and do a weeklong rotation at the Nashville District Headquarters to get familiarized about the organization and various missions the organization supports.”

Clarke said she initially wanted to pursue a medical degree in college, but her advisor and mentor Dr. Danny Bryan encouraged her to take an interest in environmental sciences and consider working in the field.

“I soon realized I would enjoy this path much more as I have always loved being and working outside and really enjoyed my botany and ecology classes in college. Once I decided to pursue this Dr. Bryan showed me a couple of options for internships I could apply to, but heavily recommended USACE in particular.”

At Center Hill Lake, Clarke said she loves spending time on maintaining pollinators and helping and teaching kids. At both lakes she has worked at she planted wildflower gardens and established interpretive programs for water safety, pollinators, and wildlife.

“I love helping people, so both things are instrumental. Educating the public and enforcing regulations will keep them safe to enjoy the outdoors we aim to protect.” Clarke said.

She strongly encourages anyone looking into becoming a park ranger to do it.

“I truly believe there can be something in it for everybody, even if you’re not classically an ‘outdoorsy’ person you may find joy in shoreline management or interpretive programs,” Clarke said. “For those starting out I would recommend finding what interests you and run with it. You’ll find the Corps is extremely supportive when they see excitement and a plan, so you’ll be able to accomplish just about anything you put your mind to.”

Bruce said he enjoys mentoring and sharing his experiences with Clarke as she begins her career as a park ranger at Center Hill Lake.

“Remi always has a great attitude when she is working, which is contagious to all those around her,” Bruce said. “She always has a smile on her face, and combined with her demeaner, attitude, and personal knowledge, she exemplifies the role of a park ranger. These are traits that all rangers should strive for and will serve them well in their career.”

John Malone, ranger training coordinator with the Nashville District, said more than 50 full time and summer park rangers manage and protect more than 500,000 acres of land and water at 10 lakes, including 281 recreation areas, 1,760 campsites at 25 campgrounds, and 3,800 shoreline miles.

He said the Nashville District is always looking to recruit park ranger candidates for positions in Kentucky and Tennessee that possess degrees within the natural sciences field of study, such as biology, wildlife and fisheries, and agriculture. Most are hired through Pathways or Direct Hire Authority Program. Internships employ college students while they are still pursuing a degree. Upon graduation, they can move into permanent positions to fill vacancies.

“We have a two-year Ranger Training Program that new park rangers complete when they are brought onboard,” Malone said. “This program provides each employee opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills necessary to be successful and includes rotational job assignments and on-the-job training.”

For more information about special hiring initiatives, go to

The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at, on Facebook at and on X (formerly Twitter) at  Follow us on LinkedIn for the latest Nashville District employment and contracting opportunities at

Chick Lock

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