Karol Jones has recently landed on the Outer Banks as the new Hatteras Island District Ranger of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. But for Karol, who grew up in North Carolina, the move is less of a transfer, and more of a homecoming.
“I transferred as a lateral position, because I wanted to be here – I wanted to transfer here,” she says. “I love it here.”
Karol grew up in the mountains of North Carolina – specifically the Smoky Mountains – before going to college at Appalachian State in Boone. And while her early years were concentrated in the western part of the state, she made frequent trips to the Outer Banks throughout her life.
“I went with friends to Ocracoke [while in school], and my sister got married in Nags Head,” she says. “I vacationed at the beach many times before, and I fell in love with it.”
Since 2009, Karol has been stationed even further west than the mountains of North Carolina, where she worked for the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior. Starting her career with the Department of the Interior at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, Karol then moved to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah and then the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
And while the island environment is certainly different than the deserts and mountains out west – (same amount of sand, quite a bit more ocean) – for Karol, it’s a welcome change.
“I moved out west when I was 23, so I have been out there for a while, and finally I have made it back home again,” she says.
Karol is already getting her feet wet in the position and learning about the area – as well as the people she’ll work with on the beaches.
“I stopped at some of the local tackle shops and introduced myself to people around here,” she says. “[And the response] is something that I missed living out west – I missed the good nature of people on the East Coast.”
“People are friendly out here, and I forgot what a small community feels like.”
Her first couple weeks have been busy, to be sure, and it’s an introduction to the area’s ever-changing role of the District Ranger position.
“[Today], we [checked out the] ramps, spent time talking about the program and different habitat areas, had a few meetings – things like that,” she says. “I do have to learn all the quirks about the specific job and the specific area I have been transferred to, as well as meet everyone while discovering the area – so there are lots of meetings.”
The frenetic schedule is a good sign of things to come, says Karol, as the job of a District Ranger truly does vary dramatically on a daily basis. “Sometimes you have meetings, and sometimes you review reports or manage employees, and sometimes there are service calls to respond to – so day to day activities will really fluctuate depending on what needs to be accomplished,” she says. “That’s a big positive of being a ranger too – there’s a variety of things to do on any given day.
Now is a good time to explore and connect with the local terrain, as well – before the wave of summer vacationers arrive.
“I have a little bit of time to familiarize myself with everything to the best of my abilities before the busy season,” she says, “and, of course, there’s a little driving around and checking out the activity on the beach. Weren’t too many people out and about today, but there were some surfers enjoying the weather.”
“Working outdoors is definitely why I became a park ranger.”
And the Hatteras Island landscape seems to be a perfect match for Karol’s love of North Carolina, the beach, the great outdoors, and a small town community.
“All the recreational activities that are available – there’s just so much that you can do here,” she says. “I love the area here. It’s really unique and very beautiful, and I’m excited [to get] to work.”
“I don’t sit in an office 8-5 every day – no, that’s not me,” she adds.