Bicycling Park Ranger
A few weeks ago, I was visiting Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. My husband and I were setting up camp, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a Park Ranger riding by pulling a bike trailer full of gear! That Park Ranger is Lori Rome, who is the Chief of Interpretation at Capitol Reef. Lori has been a Park Ranger for 15 years and has worked at numerous National Parks including Grand Canyon, Denali, Yosemite, Everglades, Rocky Mountain, Coronado, Mt. Rainier, and Missouri National Recreational River. Lori has used her bicycle at nearly all of these parks for bike commuting, roving, transportation of equipment, and just plain enjoyment. And best of all, Lori agreed to be featured here on Utility Cycling!
Bicycling in the National Parks
One of the first questions I asked Lori was how she uses a bicycle as part of her job. Fortunately for a bike lover like Lori, the National Park Service (NPS) is very bicycle friendly and seeks to find creative ways to motivate people to be more active. A number of parks have different types of bike programs that encourage visitors to get out on a bicycle to learn about and experience the parks in a new way. Lori mentioned that at Everglades, a slow speed on a bicycle is a perfect pace at which to give a ranger talk without being swarmed by mosquitos! Of course, some National Parks are more bicycle appropriate than others, so bicycle programs vary according to the park layout and infrastructure.
Additionally, the Healthy Parks Healthy People campaign, which encourages people to visit the parks, be outside, get moving, and be healthy, is a perfect way for someone like Lori to help spread the message that bicycling is a great way to accomplish those goals. To that end, Lori showed up at the recent Apple Days Parade in nearby Torrey, UT, in full uniform pulling her bike trailer decorated in images of Capitol Reef, flags, and more. Local kids came out and decorated their bikes, as well. As Lori describes it:
“I wanted to support the “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” campaign by NPS and the U.S. Public Health Service by having our representation be by bike. We decorated our bikes (and trailer) and got about 10 kiddos from the county and decorated their bikes. We were one big bike posse! After the parade, I biked 12 miles home in full regalia.”
Indeed, as this photo illustrates, Lori and the kids provided a great visual of healthy living and transportation.
Bike Use as Park Ranger
On a more personal level, Lori uses her bicycle in a variety of ways as part of her work as a Park Ranger. When I spotted Lori, she was on her way to set up an evening program on mountain lions. Instead of driving the mile from the Visitor Center to the campground where the programs are held, Lori prefers to ride her bike and carry her props in the bike trailer. She hauls quite a lot for any given evening program, including items like animal skulls, mountain lion pelts, antlers, animal scat, photos, a radio, flashlight, books, snacks, stickers, and more, which can add up to nearly 30 pounds of gear.
She also uses her bicycle when she’s out roving. Roving is an activity whereby Park Rangers rove about talking with visitors, dealing with issues, checking on park resources, administering surveys, and more. The Park Service does visitor surveys to better understand what visitors want and need from their park experience. Naturally, Lori has taken to roving and conducting surveys by bicycle, which has generated some great conversation and excitement about her bicycle and bike trailer. She hopes to spread a positive message about bicycling and being outside to visitors through her bicycle use.
Not surprisingly, Lori also commutes by bike and has done so in nearly every place she’s lived. She finds that her bike commute is not only more convenient, as well as time and money-saving, but more importantly, an opportunity for her to experience the amazing places in which she has worked. She excitedly shared that in a single mile-long commute the other night, she was able to hear to the sound of a nearby creek, feel the humidity from the monsoons, see the crystal clear night sky full of stars, spot the eye-shine of passing animals, and generally feel like she is part of the world around her. Many of those experiences would not be as profound from within a car.
She often spots animals that others miss while she’s riding her bike. She’s even been known to break up an “elk jam” or two on her bicycle. At Grand Canyon, she’d often come upon traffic jams of visitors watching an elk herd and usually trying to get a little too close to the elk. No problem, Lori would incessantly ring her bike bell and scatter them off!
Lori’s Bicycle & Equipment
Lori rides a trusty ten-year old mountain bike named Frog and uses a dog trailer to haul her equipment, as well as her three dogs when she’s out riding for fun. Her mountain bike is green, of course, to match her profession. In addition to the trailer, she has a bike bag (pannier) with a rain cover to carry smaller items. She always carries a first aid kit, plenty of food and water, a rain coat, bike pump, flat tire kit, a bike light, and a backup flashlight. And of course, her bike bell is a key piece of equipment, as well.
Lori has enjoyed riding in nearly all of the parks in which she has worked, but admits that the Grand Canyon is at the top of the list. Hermit Road on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is closed to private vehicles, and it’s a great road to ride and view the Canyon without worrying about traffic. Lori also enjoys riding with her husband and dogs, which were the original inspiration for her to purchase a dog trailer.
Lastly, I asked Lori if there was anything she’d change about her bicycle use. She explained that anyone who loves biking wants others to try it, and she hopes that she can help encourage that for those who are able and interested. She also mentioned that it would be wonderful to see more bike lanes throughout the U.S., including rural areas, to create safer places for bikes to travel.
I was very happy to have met Lori Rome at Capitol Reef! Lori is an enthusiastic and friendly bicycle advocate, and she’s a great representative for cycling, as well as the National Parks, the outdoors, and health in general. Meeting someone like Lori at a National Park is so encouraging, because she is a positive role model to all types of park visitors. Many thanks for taking the time to share your love of bicycles – and the great photos – with the Utility Cycling readers, Lori! Happy riding!