By SCOTT AUST
The last eight months have flown by for Tad Eubanks, who was hired last October as a new park ranger at Lake Scott State Park.
Originally from Pomona, a small town in eastern Kansas about 35 miles south of Lawrence, Eubanks had never heard of Lake Scott when he came west for his interview.
But it was love at first sight.
"It's really a hidden jewel," he said. "When I saw it, I said to myself, 'I've got to have this job.'"
Eubanks, 25, studied biology and sociology at Baker University in Baldwin City, with a plan to either be a game warden or a park ranger. He took a lot of natural science and wildlife classes, along with a bunch of criminal justice courses all geared toward his future career goals.
"I knew what I wanted to do, and I got the opportunity to do it. I interviewed here and got the job I wanted," he said. "I'm ecstatic to be out here."
Eubanks said that while eastern Kansas has a higher population, he prefers a small town atmosphere.
"I'm just kind of a small town guy. The town I grew up in is half the size of Scott City, so it was very fitting for me to come out here," he said. "I had been out west for pheasant hunting many times in high school and a few times in college."
When asked what he likes about his job, Eubanks lights up.
"Everything," he said with a chuckle.
The busy season for the park is the summer. During the week, Eubanks said, his job may entail a lot of maintenance, mowing and repair jobs, while the weekends involve more patrolling the park and making sure people camping or fishing are safe and abiding by the rules while they're having a good time.
"I really don't feel like it is a job. You go from doing some plumbing to dealing with a law enforcement issue to another maintenance issue. It's up and down," he said. "There's a wide variety of things I do every day, and nothing is the same. No two days are the same. And I really like that because it's never boring. It's exciting."
The chance to interact with the public more was one of the reasons Eubanks leaned toward becoming a park ranger more than a game warden. He said a game warden's duties are more closely tied to law enforcement areas that normally cover a wide area, while a state park is more like a city with an abundance of people who are vacationing.
"That's the atmosphere I wanted because I'm a big people person. I like getting out and talking with people, doing more public relations stuff. I think that was the best fit for me," Eubanks said.
Working in the 1,000-acre park that surrounds the 100-acre Scott State Fishing Lake also gives Eubanks an opportunity to see a lot of wildlife.
"This park is an oasis in the middle of nowhere with wildlife in abundance. There's tons of deer, turkeys, squirrels. All sorts of migratory birds come through here," he said. "We have a lot of habitat that's fitting for a lot of species, and this is one of the only locations out west that they can really get all of it. There are other areas, but with this spring-fed lake, it's full all year round."
Another aspect Eubanks likes about his job is the pride people take in it.
"The atmosphere here is awesome. The people here really care about the park and have the same goal in mind, and it's making it a better place," he said.