In this interview series, I’m going to introduce you to park rangers across the United States. Today’s post features Jorge Gomes, a park manager at Minnewaska State Park Preserve in New York.
What is your name and job title? Jorge Gomes, Park Manager 2, Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
Is this the first NY State Park you’ve worked at? If not, tell me what other parks/nature centers you’ve worked at. I’ve only worked within the NY State Park system. In 1998, I started my career at Minnewaska State Park Preserve—first as a Park Educator for a season and then a Park Ranger for a six years. In 2005, I accepted a promotion and became a Park Supervisor 1 at the Anthony Wayne Rec. Area of Harriman State Park. In 2006, I accepted a position at Sartaoga Spa State Park as a Park Manager 1. And lastly, in 2009, I returned to my favorite park anywhere, Minnewaska State Park Preserve, as a Park Manager 2. HiB New Paltz comes to Minnewaska State Park Preserve all the time.
Where did you grow up? In the country, a city, or a suburb? I grew up in Pine Bush, NY. It was very rural back then.
What did you love about the outdoors as a child? I loved creative play outdoors. We built forts in the woods and pretended everything from cops and robbers to super heroes in those woods. We also had a large stream/small river on our property and swam and boated on it.
When did you know you wanted to work in outdoor education? In my senior year of high school. I had applied to spend a year at a research station in Antarctica because I didn’t have a strong career direction and I thought that would give me time to figure it out and do something pretty cool while I was at it! I didn’t get accepted for the position at the research station, so I had to figure something else out, and doing what I loved for work only seemed logical.
Who encouraged you to pursue a career in outdoor education? My friends and parents. Also, my professors at Paul Smith’s College were inspiring and critical to the development of the skills I needed to get into this field of work.
What is the most common question you get from park visitors? “Where is the lake?” The funny thing is they are usually in a parking lot about 500 feet from it when they ask me!
How can parents raise kids to love the outdoors? They need to spend good quality outdoor time with their children. Opening the back door at home and telling your kids to go out and play is fine, but families who want their children to appreciate nature for their whole lives need to make getting outside together a part of the family routine. Not everyone likes to camp, so rent a cabin or an RV, but spend time enjoying nature together, hiking, biking or on the water.
Anything else you want to share about your job or what you love about nature/being outside? I get so delighted when I see people enjoying the park preserve. It is the best part of my job. 99% of people are smiling when they return from their adventure. Minnewaska is a special place. It is geologically unique and loaded with spectacular vistas; with a mix of carriage roads and foot paths, it’s great for hiking and biking. Everyone should come to Minnewaska at least once! Tip: Come during the week if you can; it’s far less crowded and you can have the feeling of having it all to yourself if you get out just a short distance on the over 75 miles of trail.