By Chuck Walker
MOBILE, Ala. – As a self-described ‘country-boy’ growing up in Illinois, David Barr knew he wanted a job where he could work outdoors in the recreation field.
While he was in college, Barr took a co-op position with the Rock Island District, Illinois, and has worked for the Corps of Engineers ever since.
After graduating from college, he accepted a ranger position with the West Point project office, Georgia in 1992. He moved up to his current position of chief ranger in 2008, and after 30 years Barr is planning to hang up his hat in December, after providing decades of dedicated service to the same park.
“I enjoy being a ranger,” Barr said. “I will miss the everyday challenges of the job, working with a sense of purpose. It will be an adjustment when I retire. This is a career; a life investment and I’m going to miss it.”
Barr, who has a wife, four kids and three grandkids, starts out each day early at 4 a.m. writing in his blog. The blog, along with his faith, is what Barr said has motivated him and is most responsible for making his career a successful one.
“Throughout my entire life I have learned to rely on God for wisdom, help and encouragement, and each time He has come through,” Barr said. “I’ve learned to trust him with each day and don’t question His ways, as they have led me down a successful career path and has blessed me more than I could have orchestrated on my own.”
One of the most successful and impactful programs Barr has been a part of during his time at West Point is the Special Day for Special People. Started in 1979, as a day designated for people with disabilities to spend a day at the park. The event has grown under Barr’s leadership and has become something the whole community gets involved with.
“It’s the highlight of my year,” Barr said. “I received a letter from a teacher once after one of the days, and she said she had a student who she had never seen smile. But during that day there was a petting zoo, and she was able to brush a mule and it was a breakthrough experience for that girl. So, it’s a lot of work to put together, but it is so worth it.”
Jay Jamison, West Point Operations project manager, said that Barr’s knowledge, contributions, and sense of responsibility to the project will be missed.
“For over 30 years David Barr has played an integral part in transforming West Point Project’s recreation and natural resource management programs mission,” Jamison said. “From serving as a park ranger to becoming recreation chief park ranger in 2008, Mr. Barr’s work was instrumental in providing quality public outdoor recreation experiences for millions of visitors.”
Barr’s advice for anyone who is considering a career as a park ranger, is to get out and volunteer and build your resume with experience.
“Try to reach out or volunteer to work for any project or agency, something that helps to build your resume and gives you experience in the field,” Barr said. “Work for a state or county park, something that shows others that you have interest in the field. Also, get yourself a business card, go to job fairs, visit parks, and make contacts. And when a vacancy comes up, if I have your card, I’m already considering you for the position.”
Barr and his wife plan on staying in the West Point area after he retires. He said he plans on enjoying his retirement.
“It’s time for me to pass the torch,” Barr said. “I want to enjoy retirement while I’m able to physically. No more meetings. No reading e-mails. I plan to do woodworking, riding my Harley, playing golf, and continuing to write in my blog. Even in retirement, I will continue to seek out His will and plan for my life.”