Travis Russell

Travis Russell figures serving as state park ranger in Haines involves three seasons: summer, bald eagle season, and skiing season.

The eagles start arriving as summer winds down, and when the eagle numbers start to dwindle, it’s time to start making tracks for local skiers, he said.

Russell, 35, was recently chosen as Haines ranger. His responsibilities include the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve and state campgrounds at Chilkat State Park, Chilkoot Lake, Portage Cove and Mosquito Lake.

“I always wanted to come to Alaska and I wanted to be a park ranger since I was a kid,” he said last week in an interview at the parks office on Main Street.

Russell grew up in tiny Snowflake, Ariz., and came to Alaska 16 years ago with the U.S. Army, driving fuel trucks and processing paperwork related to hazardous materials. He worked as a river guide at Denali National Park, then enrolled at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, majoring in history, with a double minor in natural resources and criminal justice.

His studies were aimed at preparing him as a ranger, including at the state’s historic parks.

Russell was hired four years ago as ranger of Valdez-area state parks, the sole agency employee responsible for three traditional parks and three marine parks.

Budget cuts by the Alaska Legislature this year rerouted his ranger ambitions to Haines, when his job and others at state parks in Sitka and Dillingham were eliminated because they did not generate enough revenue.

Russell said he’s glad for the transfer. “I’d considered putting in for the Haines ranger position when it opened the last time, but there was some unfinished work I wanted to do, but I guess it got finished for me.”

He said he’s impressed so far with Haines, its historic buildings and the number of local businesses here. “For this size town, it seems like a lot.”

There’s more to do here in terms of parks, Russell said. “There’s twice as much acreage here and it’s twice as accessible. It’s busier here, too.”

He said he expects to spend a lot of time in the coming weeks along the Chilkoot River, as a seasonal position that serves a bear-monitor role likely won’t be filled until August.

Russell is assisted by Dallas Anderson, a seasonal technician who’s been holding down the office here, and a seasonal Alaska Conservation Corps worker. A second ACC worker will be hired on a one-time basis this year, Russell said.

Parks projects this summer include work on the Battery Point Trail, he said. “It’s something we’ll chip away at on days of the week when we’re not so busy.”

He said he’s also aware of a local request to open a cabin at Chilkat State Park for public use. “There are different discussions of purpose, including for seasonal public use or as a cabin for the campground hosts. Before we do anything, maintenance is an issue,” including mold, ventilation issues and decaying logs.

“I’d like to get that up to speed. It’s one of the nicest structures in the state parks system,” he said.

Russell’s interests include kayaking, bicycling, rafting and backpacking.