Ranger Howard Leads His Last Hike
By Cindy Kabiru, UF Student
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Rousing roosts of the sandhill cranes and guttural growls of the alligators enveloped hikers Saturday morning at La Chua Trail. The undomesticated song lulled the hikers’ conversations and thoughts momentarily only to be interrupted by an Osprey sighting.
With every walk, Ranger Howard Adams hopes to share Florida’s natural splendor with Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park visitors. Alas, after 36 years of service to Florida Parks, Ranger Howard will retire at the end of this month.
“To me, it has never been so much a job but a lifestyle,” he said.
Hailing from New York, Adams has traveled around the world because of his army brat childhood. Despite his adolescent global travels, Adams still calls Gainesville home. After all, he has spent the majority of his life in the city.
Prior to Paynes Prairie, Adams worked at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys for about a year. Then in 1978, he relocated to Gainesville, where in which he has served as a park ranger for the prairie ever since.
Park rangers are relegated a number of tasks customarily referred to as ‘the big five’: visitor services, resource management, protection, maintenance and administration.
“I basically do multiple jobs as one position,” said Martin Jacob, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park ranger.
Jacob was among the trekkers that joined Ranger Howard on his last official ranger-led hike. Assistant Park Manager, Matt Bledsoe and Park Services Specialist, Amber Roux also participated in the excursion.
“It’s a wildlife walk but this one is a touch more special because he’s leaving with a lot of wisdom and personal history of the park,” Roux said.
With the imminent onset of retirement, Adams plans to indulge in his bird-watching hobby and travel throughout Florida. He imparts advice of the same vein to younger generations: to go out and see things.
“We are trying to provide a natural setting for people to come out and experience wild life,” Adams said.
Adams said he intends to resume involvement with the park at some point in the near future. But he remains weary of social-networking sites such as Facebook – he ascribes it to his old-school ideology.
“Getting unplugged is important for young people today,” Adams said. “While you’re young, there is so much to see and do.”