Eric de Smit – Senior Ranger at Shepherds Hill Recreation Park
How would you describe your job to someone at a BBQ?
I see myself as a protector and conservator of the environment, which involves managing fire in parks, engaging the community in our parks, managing and protecting biodiversity, and helping visitors to enjoy their park experience. The role is very diverse, which is a big part of its appeal.
I work with another ranger to service fire tracks and walking trails, liaise with volunteer groups and park visitors, promote the park and perform general park management duties.
I’m responsible for nine parks in the Adelaide metropolitan region, including Shepherds Hill Recreation Park.
How did you get into this line of work?
In the late 80s I was employed as a plumber/sewerage treatment operator in Kosciusko National Park, New South Wales. I really enjoyed my job. My responsibilities included providing maintenance services for the Perisher, Blue Cow, Guthega and Smiggins Hole ski fields, and so I was able to live in the park, which was such a beautiful environment.
My job required fairly early starts, so I’d often be the first one driving up the mountain. This sometimes meant coming across injured wildlife, so I’d collect them in my 4WD or ski mobile in winter and hand them over to wildlife carers. I really enjoyed this aspect of my role.
Unfortunately, I lost my job due to budget cuts and the privatisation of services so I headed back home to the western suburbs of Sydney. I really missed my ‘park life’ so my mother encouraged me to study Parks, Recreation and Heritage as a mature age student at Charles Sturt University. I haven’t looked back since!
What do you encounter in a ‘normal’ day on the job?
As a Senior Ranger, I spend quite a bit of time in the office completing administration tasks, but I get to balance that with working outside.
When the office work gets a bit much, I can head out to audit a fire or walking track and reconnect with nature. It’s the best of both worlds.
What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen atShepherds Hill?
Most definitely the Grey box trees – they’re home for many of the park’s animals. Possums and birds feed on them and reptiles live in them.
What are your insider tips for visiting Shepherds Hill?
Shepherds Hill is a fantastic natural place for recreation. You can mountain bike or walk our new trails, walk your dog (as long as it’s on a leash and sticks to the trail), bird watch (keep an eye out for corellas, rainbow lorikeets, wrens and firetails) or ride a horse.
If you’re after a walk or bike ride that showcases the best of Shepherds Hill, my tip is to start at the carpark and walk or ride your bike along the River Red Gum Loop until you merge with the Seaview Loop. Head up and over the steep hill and continue on the Grey box Loop. This will take you right back to the car park and covers around 4 kilometres.
To get a taste of Shepherds Hill why not head to the Adventure Day on 20 March where you can bike ride, go on a guided dog walk or try out archery.
Throughout the month of March Shepherds Hill Recreation Park is being celebrated as the Park of Month – an initiative between Nature Play SA and DEW.
If you’re a fan of Shepherds Hill Recreation Parksend us your photos and tips for visiting in the comments below.
*Photo courtesy of Jason Tyndall, Nature Play SA.