Jackie French, interpretative specialist at Central Whidbey State Parks, points out burn marks on a Douglas fir and explains how its thick bark is fire resistant. French has a passion for outdoor education and leads junior ranger programs and guided hikes at state parks on the island. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Jackie French, interpretative specialist at Central Whidbey State Parks, points out burn marks on a Douglas fir and explains how its thick bark is fire resistant. French has a passion for outdoor education and leads junior ranger programs and guided hikes at state parks on the island. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

‘This is the best job I could’ve asked for’

What began as an admiration for Steve Irwin developed into a passion for outdoor education.

And that passion took Jackie French from her home state of Florida to whale touring boats in Alaska and Hawaii and, finally, to state parks on Whidbey Island.

French is the new interpretive specialist for Central Whidbey State Parks.

“I like to think of it as a communication art form,” she said.

Her art involves leading junior ranger programs and guided hikes and creating signs for the parks so visitors can self-guide their outings. She does this for all the state parks on Whidbey Island except Deception Pass State Park.

She entered the position on June 25 after spending two summers at Deception Pass working as an interpretive specialist through AmeriCorps. French graduated from the University of South Florida in 2013 with a degree in biology. After coming to Whidbey, she also participated in interpretative training with Washington State Parks.

Her enthusiasm was evident as she walked one of the trails at South Whidbey State Park identifying species of ferns, explaining the meaning of the color of lichen and telling the legend of the mice and Douglas fir cones.

French said she enjoys learning how to identify new plant life in the parks and pointing them out to people.

“It’s like you meet a new friend and you know its name,” she said.

One of her favorite parts of the job is leading the junior ranger program. After assisting with one program, she was later approached by a child who had participated so he could proudly report he’d picked up trash during his family’s trip to Hawaii.

She also observed that another kid who frequently participates in the programs has started taking a leadership role and sharing what he’s learned from them with the other junior rangers.

“To see that a kid can be a steward and pass that on is pretty special,” she said.

Another part of what makes her job special, she said, is the location. Since moving to Washington state and Whidbey Island in particular, she’s noticed “a culture” of caring for the environment and the parks.

“It’s pretty spectacular,” she said. “This is the best job I could’ve asked for.”

More in News

Large parrots and machete-wielding man | Island Scanner

The following items were selected from reports made to the Island County… Continue reading

State to pay property owners to allow deer hunting

The state is encouraging hunting in an attempt to ease deer overpopulation… Continue reading

Drug Court graduate sent to prison for series of crimes

Two years ago, South Whidbey resident Kody Schwiger graduated from adult Drug… Continue reading

WhidbeyHealth begins ongoing ‘SAIL’ class for fall prevention

WhidbeyHealth Medical Center is offering a twice-a-week exercise program for senior falls… Continue reading

Former pizza shop employee charged with burglary

A former manager at an Oak Harbor pizza joint is accused of… Continue reading

Nonprofit Life Flight opening base on Whidbey

Emergency transportation will soon be more immediate on Whidbey Island. Life Flight… Continue reading

Oak Harbor mayor asks AG to dismiss Growler lawsuit

Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns is asking the state attorney general to… Continue reading

A place of hope: Local nonprofit’s sober house helps give men a new start

Seven formerly homeless men recently sat in the living room of a… Continue reading

Man gets 6 months for ‘communicating with a minor for immoral purposes’

A 32-year-old petty chief in the Navy originally accused of raping a… Continue reading

Most Read