By Tim Hauserman ·
In 1986, Heidi Doyle was living in Germany when she got a summer job working as a park ranger performing boat patrol in Emerald Bay. For the next 17 years, Heidi spent three-quarters of the year living in Germany, Saudi Arabia and upstate New York, while her husband worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, and in the summer, she was a park ranger in the Sierra State Parks. In 2005, she began working for the parks full-time, and then last year became the Executive Director of the Sierra State Parks Foundation.
While being a park law enforcement official in a relaxed place like Tahoe might seem like an easy job, Heidi says it was always full of interesting challenges and fun memories.
“You have to think quickly on your feet and not escalate the situation. Your end goal always is to go home,” said Heidi.
She has seen a man ride his horse right out of central casting along the Rubicon Trail between D.L. Bliss State Park and Emerald Bay. He had a long beard, guns in holster and miners equipment strapped onto the saddle. She once rescued a family in Emerald Bay, who after jumping into their boat discovered a pair of strong-willed raccoons and jumped right back out. There were lots of out-of-control parties, including a few where she had the awkward experience of seeing some Tahoe teenagers that she recognized.
“My goal was to have them thank me for giving them a citation. I’d rather give ‘em a ticket then scrape them off the road,” she said.
Of course, much of being a ranger was more mundane, but equally important, like helping people who had never set up a tent do it quickly before the thunderstorms arrived, or chasing away more bears then she could count. She said that she felt that being a ranger was the best career she could have.
“I was very fortunate to be able to do something I truly loved,” she said.
Heidi also said that she loved making the transition to being a full-time Tahoe resident.
“Sarah (her daughter) was miserable in school elsewhere and really wanted to graduate from North Tahoe High School,” said Heidi. Sarah had spent time in the summer camps on the North Shore and had developed friendships with local kids.
“What is unique about NTHS, is that if a child wants to join the softball team in their senior year, they can. Sarah joined the snowboard team never having been a snowboarder. We all support each other in our pursuits in this town,” she said.
Filling the gap at local parks
After 32 years working for state parks, Doyle was given the opportunity to take on the Sierra State Parks Foundation position.
“It was a perfect nexus, because I know State parks and how state government functions,” said Doyle. “We have been very successful at getting a lot of great projects completed or in pipelines.”
The Sierra State Parks Foundation is a nonprofit partner with the local state parks. They provide critical funding for educational interpretation, restoration and maintenance projects, and cultural and environmental education.
“We take off where State park funding leaves off,” she said. “State park funding is precarious and uneven. The way the budget process works it doesn’t allow the local parks to vision into the future.”
Since Heidi, has taken over as director, a full electrical system upgrade was completed at the Ehrman Mansion at Sugar Pine State Park, and the Foundation funded a visitor center coordinator for the new Donner Visitor Center near the shore of Donner Lake that opened on June 5. Projects in the pipeline include replacing the sod roof at Vikingsholm and installing interpretative panels along the Rubicon Trail. The Sierra State Parks Foundation also operates the visitor centers at Vikingsholm and at Sugar Pine Point State Park.
The foundation has contributed more than $400,000 to the local state parks, she says.
“That is the big thing, your donations stay local,” Heidi said.
Recently, the group was given an anonymous 1 million dollar gift. Doyle says they “want to strategically look for the best use of that money. I want to make sure that we are doing it smartly.”
One potential use for the money is the structural upgrades to some of the parks buildings that have been long delayed.
“I feel very lucky that everything I’ve done has led to my leadership role. It is really allowing us to make a major impact toward the betterment of Tahoe-Truckee state parks. We are so fortunate to have these treasures in our backyard. I’m committed that our great, great grandchildren have the opportunity that my family had.
“Bottom line, people come to our parks to experience something greater then themselves. It’s important for us to lay the groundwork so those experiences are there for future generations. One visitor at a time.”
The Sierra State Parks Foundation operates through donations, memberships and the proceeds from fundraising events. For more information or to make a donation, visit sierrastateparks.org.