Lifeguard at Contra Loma. (Photo: EBRPD)
Thousands of high-school and college students have launched their careers by working at the East Bay Regional Park District, one of the largest employers of young people in the Bay Area, writes Mona Koh.
Each year, the district hires more than 400 young people to work in parks, offices and visitor centers. No matter what your interests or career goals, the district has a job for you.
- Summer and academic interns to work in administration, public safety, operations, finance, planning, stewardship, legal and other divisions. In stewardship, interns do everything from testing water quality to identifying invasive species to caring for injured animals. In the legal department, they learn about policy and lobbying. In public affairs, they make videos, learn graphic arts, and design web apps.
- Field interns to learn forestry skills, such as trail maintenance and how to operate chainsaws and off-road vehicles.
- Lifeguards to work at 11 pools and lakes. We offer high-quality lifeguard training that can prepare students for careers in medicine, emergency response, and firefighting.
- Recreation leaders to serve as camp counselors and lead bicycle, kayak and other outdoor activities.
- Public safety aides for those interested in careers in police or firefighting.
- Interpretive aides to lead nature walks, help give tours of Ohlone villages and other historic sites, and lead nature programs for kids.
- Gate attendants.
Most of the positions are paid, and we offer generous benefits and opportunities for career advancement. Many student workers have gone on to lifelong careers with the Park District – including our General Manager.
Taylor Lee, a freshman at UC Berkeley who serves as an intern in public affairs, said his experience with the Park District has made him consider changing careers, from business to public service.
“Working in public affairs, I’ve been able to learn about everything from cattle grazing to policy to GIS. It’s made me realize how important our work is to the public,” he said. “Instead of selling something, we’re doing something that benefits people. I’m very proud of who I work for.”
As an intern, Lee has compiled a comprehensive guide to disabled services and accessibility within the Park District, researched and written brochures on the health benefits of being outdoors for use by doctors, nurses and patients at Children’s Hospital Oakland, and helped on numerous other tasks.
Sarah Erspamer, a recent graduate of Cal State-East Bay, is working as a field intern specializing in conservation projects. Among her duties is to monitor the western pond turtle, snowy plover, bald eagle and other threatened or endangered species that live in the parks.
She checks to see they’re safe from predators and people, and are able to successfully nest and reproduce.
She’s not only learning about the species and their habitats, but about the Park District itself, she said.
“It’s inspiring to see so many people with a common goal working together,” Erspamer said. “I’m learning a lot about the structure of the district – how everyone works together to save the environment. I’ve learned that even by saving one plant, we can save 10 different species.”
She hopes to pursue a career as a conservation biologist.
Dan Wan’s internship was so successful he ended up as a full-time employee with the District. Wan, a U.S. Army sergeant who fought in Iraq in 2003-04, earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cal State Stanislaus and was planning to become a police officer – until he got an internship with the Park District.
As a field intern, Wan built fences, cared for park landscaping, repaired buildings, worked on irrigation plumbing and was a welcoming face for park visitors. He worked at parks in Briones, Pt. Pinole and Martinez.
“A professor recommended I apply. At first I had no idea what to expect, but I had a really great experience,” he said, noting that the teamwork aspect reminded him of the comradery he enjoyed in the military.
In July 2014 he was hired full-time as a park ranger at Martinez Shoreline Regional Park.
“I’m learning so much,” said Wan, who’s still in the Army reserves. “Now I can go home at night and talk to my daughter about nature. She loves that.”
For more information and current job listing, go to www.ebparks.org/jobs or call (510) 544-2154.