Chelsea Kapica is a senior park ranger with Snohomish County Parks. As a park ranger, Kapica takes pride in serving and protecting the visitors and the parks to which she is assigned — and right now, that’s the southern region. Her team oversees more than 30 parks and trails, in green spaces that stretch from Edmonds to Index, and from Everett to Bothell, as well as many Snohomish County Conservation Futures Program properties.
You may find her rescuing ducklings from a drain in Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary, clearing problem trees in McCollum Park or maintaining the trails at Heybrook Ridge.
What made you want to become a park ranger?
I have always loved hiking, fishing, backpacking and otherwise spending time outdoors. I landed my first parks job with Washington State Parks in 2010. From then on, I knew I wanted a career in parks. I like that I am able to help someone every day, whether it’s providing park information, helping find lost children or pets, clearing trails of downed trees or just being a safe presence for park visitors. It is rewarding. Every day is different, too, which makes work fun and keeps it interesting.
Tell me more about your job as a Snohomish County park ranger.
Right now, I’m assigned to the southern region of Snohomish County. It is nice working for a local parks system, because you build relationships with the community that visits the parks. Many of our visitors — a lot of them daily visitors — take just as much of a vested interest in the preservation of the parks as we do.
The south region has many beautiful areas that are hidden gems in the hustle and bustle of the county, such as Picnic Point Park in Edmonds, North Creek Park in Bothell, Bob Heirman Wildlife Park in Snohomish, Southwest County Park, also in Edmonds, and Paradise Valley Conservation Area near Maltby.
My day-to-day responsibilities consist of responding to public concerns, addressing hazards, patrolling the parks and general maintenance. That can be picking up litter and clearing downed trees to make sure the parks are safe and clean for the public. Right now, I’m helping to clear trees of concern at McCollum Park in Everett to keep them from becoming a hazard. I also provide interpretive guidance at the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary in Everett. And I help with recruiting for our department. Yes, we are hiring.
Let’s get into your background.
I graduated from Skagit Valley College with an associate degree in environmental conservation with an emphasis in parks resource management. While in college, I had a summer job as a park aide for Washington State Parks, where I worked at Rasar State Park near Concrete, Bay View State Park and Deception Pass State Park.
As soon as I turned 21, I enrolled in the Parks Law Enforcement Academy, also at Skagit Valley College. (There’s an age requirement to get into the academy.) After graduation from the academy, I was a volunteer general ranger at Mount Rainier National Park at Paradise. Then I received a call from Snohomish County offering me the local opportunity I had been hoping for. I have been with Snohomish County Parks for almost seven years. It’s been a great experience.
What is your favorite park or trail in Snohomish County?
One of my favorite parks in our system is Heybrook Ridge Trail in Index. It is one of our easternmost parks and is a well-maintained trail that is about 3.3 miles roundtrip that provides pretty spectacular views of Mount Index and the Skykomish River Valley. It is always a treat to hike, patrol or do maintenance work out there.
Tell me an interesting story from being on the job.
I once received a call from a woman who was distraught that some baby ducklings had fallen through a storm drain at Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary in Everett. She could see them about 6 feet down in the drain. Luckily, it hadn’t rained, so the drain was fairly dry. When I arrived at the park, I saw the ducklings and called Snohomish County PUD. They sent two employees over who helped open the drain. I climbed down and brought the ducklings back to safety, and they waddled into the brush by the pond where their mother and other siblings were waiting. That team effort made for a great story. We were glad to help.
How has being a park ranger changed because of COVID-19?
My job as a park ranger has not changed too drastically during the pandemic. We are still working on lots of projects and patrolling our parks.
There was a strange period of time when we had to close the parking lots and restrooms of parks in 2020 due to state guidelines. However, during that time, we were able to get a lot of projects and park improvements done that our workload before COVID-19 had made difficult to get to. A lot of our parks got some beautiful upgrades in that time. When we did reopen, a lot of the visitors I spoke to said that they had never been to our parks before COVID. Lots of people were finding public spaces where they could recreate and enjoy nature while socially distancing at the same time.
More about Chelsea
Chelsea Kapica, 29, of Stanwood, has been with Snohomish County Parks for about seven years. Since 2018, she also has served as an adjunct instructor with the Parks Law Enforcement Academy at Skagit Valley College. She leads taser instruction and assists with the instruction of defensive tactics. A Mariner High School grad, Kapica’s favorite parks include Picnic Point Park in Edmonds, Heybrook Ridge in Index and Kayak Point County Park near Warm Beach.
Washington North Coast Magazine
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