A Brief Park Ranger Institute History
March 1979 the first Park Ranger training was held in High Point, North Carolina. The training was titled "The North Carolina Park Ranger Workshop" - there were thirty participants. It was a collaboration between Recreation Resources Services through N.C. State University and the Park Ranger/Lake Warden staff at High Point. The 1970’s were unprecedented years of growth for Park Ranger units in North Carolina but there was no specialized training available to address the unique niche. After the March training, a planning committee was formed of which, John Byrd became a member. For the first ten years the Institute was rotated among different cities in North Carolina including: High Point, Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville, Asheville, Greenville, Greensboro, and Salisbury.
John missed the 9th Institute to attend a First Line Supervision School in Salemburg at the North Carolina Justice Academy. During the two-week training, John spoke at length with Robert “Bob” Leathers about the possibility of moving the Institute to the Justice Academy. And as they say “the rest is history”. It was at this juncture that Mr. Byrd became the Executive Director and for thirty-three years, The Justice Academy has been our gracious host. The availability of facilities can accommodate our diverse training classes, and cost effectiveness cannot be beat.
The move to the Justice Academy gave us a permanent host and a name change from - The North Carolina Park Ranger Workshop to the North Carolina Park Ranger Training Institute and later, in 2006, with national and international attendees the name changed to The Park Ranger Institute. To date, the Institute has trained approximately 5,500 participants and offers the only Professional Ranger Certification program in the country. The Institute has had attendees from forty-three different states, Canada, Ireland and Russia.
In 2121, due to CoVid, training had to be cancelled. This was the first time in forty-three years we were unable to offer The Park Ranger Institute training. Thankfully we were able to get back on track in 2022 and we look forward to many great years to come.