Day in the Life: DNV Parks Ranger

By District Staff on Tuesday, Jul 25, 2023

Pictured above: Ranger Emma Lobo setting up a swim zone at Panorama Park.

On a sunny day in May, a fast-acting DNV Parks Ranger helped to rescue a man clinging to a boulder in the rushing waters in Lynn Canyon before he was swept over a steep waterfall.

When the rescue call crackled in over the radio, Noah Knapp, 22, was inside the nearby Rangers’ station at Lynn Canyon Park attending a team meeting.

He grabbed his rescue kit and raced to the middle of the Suspension Bridge to locate the man in distress. When he spotted him, the young Ranger descended a steep staircase and ran to the river’s edge, tossing the man his safety line.

“Time is critical in an incident like this. The biggest risk is hypothermia, losing your grip strength and getting pulled away by the current,” says Knapp. “The water is so frigid, and he was losing strength.”

After heaving the rescue line slightly upstream of the victim, the man grabbed the rope and tied it to his wrist.

Knapp held on to the man – at one point, a passerby stopped to help by pushing down on Knapp’s shoulders to help anchor him – until District firefighters arrived with specialized swift-current equipment to save the 20-something man.

“We train for this,” Knapp says, referring to the week-long training Rangers do with District of North Vancouver Fire & Rescue at the start of the season, including sessions on swift-water and high-angle rescues, first aid, and fighting forest fires.

“This is the scenario you constantly think about when patrolling this area. All the Rangers in that meeting on May 22 responded quickly and played a role in this rescue.”

Pictured below (left to right): Mike, Jake, Connor, Noah, Emma, Chris and James. 

A group shot of seven Parks Rangers in grey uniforms set against a forest backdrop.

Meet the Rangers

The Parks Rangers squad is 13 strong this season — five women and eight men. Most are in their early and mid-20s; more than half are North Vancouver born and raised, with others hailing from places like Ontario, Squamish and Scotland.

At 35, Michael Macfarlane is the veteran of the crew and one of its leaders. He lives in Delta with his young family, so it’s often a traffic-filled commute to gear up as a Ranger, but he wouldn’t give it up for any other job.

“There's a strong camaraderie among the team,” says Macfarlane, who sports a friendly smile and tattooed arm with portraits of his kids. “I enjoy the public interaction and working alongside the other Rangers to make our outdoor spaces safer and more enjoyable.”

Emma Lobo joined the Rangers last summer. The job is a perfect fit for an outdoorsy type who grew up taking advantage of all the parks and pristine nature the Shore offers.

“The idea of being a Parks Ranger has always appealed to me due to my love for the outdoors, staying physically active, and connecting with the community,” she says.

Many young Rangers, like Jake Tapp, have their eyes set on future careers in firefighting, and experience gained as a Ranger is a great resume-builder.

“I returned to the Ranger program this year to pursue a career as a District firefighter,” Tapp says.

Macfarlane has proudly watched several Rangers start careers with DNVFRS and other fire departments in recent years. “When I see our team members trading the Ranger uniform for our District fire shirt, that’s a satisfying feeling,” he says. “DNVFRS is extremely supportive of our Ranger program.”

Pictured below: Ranger Noah Knapp practises tossing a throw line in Lynn Canyon.

A young Ranger standing on a creek-side boulder demonstrates throwing a yellow life line that can be used to save victims in distress.

No two days alike  

In the summer, Rangers patrol from 7am and 9:30pm, seven days a week

“Every day is different, really different,” says Macfarlane, who’s been on the job since 2014. “Most people probably don’t realize the scope of our work.”

That could mean an early-morning check of a homeless camp, followed by a rescue on Quarry Rock, setting up a swim zone at Panorama Park and an evening beach and park patrol to ensure fire danger rating bans are being obeyed.

Or it could mean enforcing boating and crabbing regulations at Cates Park/Whey-ah-Wichen, conducting water patrols of the Deep Cove Designated Anchorage Area, issuing warnings for alcohol consumption or smoking in parks, educating park-goers about the danger of cliff jumping or handing out maps, safety pamphlets and Junior Rangers sticker badges for kids.

On another day, they could attend a park after a bear sighting, visit sports fields to check in with different user groups, provide traffic control assistance on busy long weekends, or investigate parks-related concerns logged through Report a Problem.

When on patrol, the Rangers carry 20–30-pound backpacks that include a first aid kit, ropes and harnesses, emergency throw-line rescue kit, various maps and garbage bags, plus water and snacks.

Rangers are front-line ambassadors for the District wherever they go, so they do their best to become experts on all things about the DNV because they get asked all sorts of questions.

Things can turn from giving trail directions to an emergency in a hurry. Last summer, Macfarlane and Rangers Emma Lobo, Liam Mahon, and Janine McNeilly provided life-saving CPR to a park visitor who fell into cardiac arrest and collapsed.

This team's fast action allowed first responders to save the patient's life.

A few days later, the patient’s family returned to the Ranger station to provide a good news update and heartfelt thank you.

“Our team did exactly what it needed to do. Our overall goal is ensuring the safety and enjoyment of those using our fields, parks, beaches and recreational areas,” says Macfarlane.

Pictured below: Ranger Jake Tapp gives a Junior Rangers sticker badge to a young park goer.

A Ranger in a grey uniform and had sits beside a young park visitor who has just received a Park Ranger sticker badge.

We welcome comments and discussion. However, to ensure that conversations remain respectful and positive for everyone, we review all comments prior to publishing them, to ensure they meet our community guidelines. Those that do not will not be published.