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Point Defiance’s first park ranger an Alaskan roller derby player

Mary Krauszer, a 25-year-old University of Puget Sound alumna, will trade in a pant suit for khakis and a hat as the first park ranger for Point Defiance Park. Krauszer, an Alaska native and avid roller derby player, graduated from UPS in 2012 with a biology degree. She stands outside the Visitors Center at Point Defiance Park on Friday with her new ranger uniform in hand.
Mary Krauszer, a 25-year-old University of Puget Sound alumna, will trade in a pant suit for khakis and a hat as the first park ranger for Point Defiance Park. Krauszer, an Alaska native and avid roller derby player, graduated from UPS in 2012 with a biology degree. She stands outside the Visitors Center at Point Defiance Park on Friday with her new ranger uniform in hand. dkoepfler@thenewstribune.com

Mary Krauszer has a soft spot for snails.

The 25-year-old University of Puget Sound alumna has a favorite — the Pacific sideband — and the biology and music major brought those passions together when she picked her roller derby name: “Nine Inch Snails.”

You can find her in a different uniform patrolling Point Defiance Park as its first park ranger, a job she started in mid-May, but you won’t find her on skates at work.

“I wish,” Krauszer said wistfully. “There are rules about skateboarding and roller skating in the park.”

Krauszer is tasked with getting people to follow the rules.

Though she has a uniform, she’s not a law enforcement officer. Her duties so far include leading nature hikes and garden tours, and she hopes to add community talks and a junior ranger program.

I always idolized park rangers. I thought they were really cool.

Mary Krauszer, Point Defiance Park ranger

Much of her time on the job so far has been taken up with establishing responsibilities for the new position, writing a ranger manual and undergoing training.

“Most of the people who come here love the park and wouldn’t do anything to harm it,” Krauszer said.

She came to the park before she even lived in Tacoma; her older sister went to Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, and her family stopped there during a trip from Wasilla, Alaska, to visit.

While studying at UPS, Krauszer did biology research at the park and surveyed sea stars at Owen Beach. In 2014, she was a summer park ambassador. Until taking the park ranger position, she worked at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium as an educator.

“To me, Tacoma is a big city,” she said. “I think it was the natural part of the park that drew me in.”

Krauszer says she was spoiled by the natural spaces around her as a child in Alaska. She had been to Denali National Park 13 times by the age of 15.

“I always idolized park rangers,” she said. “I thought they were really cool.”

Now she gets to be one.

13Times that Mary Krauszer had been to Denali National Park by the time she was 15

Krauszer was picked from more than 80 candidates for the job, according to Metro Parks Tacoma.

“She’s got a lot of energy, a lot of knowledge and background about natural systems,” said Marina Becker, Metro Parks Tacoma’s director of parks and natural resources.

“We wanted someone who could really be a presence and talk about the natural areas, and the wealth of natural and botanical resources around the park, and we believe she can do it,” Becker said.

The park district is trying to enhance the visitor experience there through the Destination Point Defiance initiative, spokesman Michael Thompson said. The park has added programs, extended hours at the visitor center and invested in capital projects.

Adding a park ranger — the position pays $45,936 a year — fits with those investments, he said.

“We wanted a focal point, a ranger-type person that could be an interpretive person but could help people get where they want to get to,” said Becker, who noted the park sees 3.5 million visits per year.

Krauszer was allowed to design her own uniform, but it’s not quite complete: It needs a patch that says “park ranger” and features some of Point Defiance’s defining characteristics.

In lieu of her roller skates, Krauszer will get around Point Defiance in an ATV, which she will use instead of a truck because she can take it on the park’s trails.

Krauszer says she can use many of the qualities she’s learned from the “campy” sport of roller derby, which she enjoys because “it doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

Roller derby is about being confident and working in a team, and that’s something I need to do here.

Mary Krauszer, Point Defiance Park ranger

“I think they do complement each other,” Krauszer said. “Roller derby is about being confident and working in a team, and that’s something I need to do here.”

And much like Krauszer, her favorite Pacific sideband snail can be found in Point Defiance Park.

“Can you imagine a more beautiful place to come to work?” Krauszer said. “I can’t.”

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker

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