The many duties of the KP lone ranger


Steve Whitford

Ranger Janet Shonk is responsible for three area state parks, and lives at Penrose State Park.Photo by Ed Johnson, KP News


If you spend any time at our local state parks you’ll eventually meet Ranger Janet Shonk.

A local woman from Silverdale, Shonk graduated from Western Washington State University in 1999 with a degree in environmental policy and assessment.

In 1999 she was hired by Washington State Park Service as a ranger in training.

Her first assignment was at Cape Disappointment State Park, near Ilwaco.

Three years later she was assigned to Jarol Cove on Harstene Island. In 2006. she moved to Penrose State Park where she resides and works today.

Shonk’s job classification is Ranger 3, which puts three parks under her jurisdiction; Penrose, Joemma, and Kopachuck. There are 2 rangers that assist her, Kristie Cronin at Joemma and Dennis Mills at Kopachuck. Shonk is the lone ranger at Penrose.

“It’s a job where you wear many hats because you do oversee all aspects of running a park. This includes the obvious duties of fee collection, law enforcement, safety, rescue and visitor registration.” Shonk said.

A ranger also performs a host of jobs one wouldn’t suspect such as coordinating park supplies, paying bills, bank deposits, carpentry, and planning for the three parks, she said

A typical day starts at 8 a.m. with a meeting with park staff to address maintenance issues. The rest of the day is filled with everything else that needs to be done to keep the park running.

When they are busy, Shonk instructs junior rangers in progress, a program educating children about the park and its unique ecology. She also performs evening lectures by campfire light.

Besides the aquatic residents such as salmon, seals and killer whales, the parks 160 acres are home to coyotes, fox and bears.

It’s also Shonk’s year round residence.

“In the winter it’s like having your own personal park,” she said, but imagine what it’s like to live where you work. Strange things happen in state parks.”

Some incidents Shonk mentioned was the time the park was invaded by cows, or the exotic pheasant that moved in for a while. Some incidents Shonk was unwilling to discuss.

Most of the time Shonk is the lone ranger who wears a badge and carries a firearm. She usually goes about her duties alone, seldom is there a “Tonto.” There’s always an element of risk inherent in this profession. Less than two years ago Ranger Margaret Anderson was shot to death at Mt. Rainier National Park.

Shonk is dispatched through the state patrol and is capable of instant communication if necessary. All park rangers perform their duty which can be difficult and dangerous, but often delightful.

Penrose State Park is located at 321 158th Avenue KPS, Lakebay. For information about the activities or reservations at the park you can call (253) 884-2514.