By Meg Olson
The Whatcom County Parks and Recreation department has assigned a new ranger to Point Roberts who brings a regular presence and a sturdy skill set to local parks.
“I’m a fresh set of eyes,” said Aaron Johnson, who took up the newly created position July 9 and moved to the Point with his fiancée Melissa and dog Leroy in mid-August. Johnson, 32, spent the first 10 years of his life in Australia and the next 10 in New Hampshire, joining the U.S. Navy at 20 years old. He was stationed in Everett with the Abraham Lincoln and served for four years with two deployments, one in southeast Asia and another in the Gulf region.
“One of the things that really drove me to get into recreation was the guys saying there was nothing to do,” Johnson said.
As he discovered the Pacific Northwest he said he was amazed at the incredible natural resources. “A short drive away there’s everything,” he said. “I thought ‘I need to get these guys out there!’”
After his discharge Johnson went to Western Washington University, graduating in 2010 with a degree in outdoor recreation. He went to work as the manager of the Jim Creek Recreation Area near Arlington, a military facility that includes a campground, an RV park, a lodge, a challenge course, a lake, a disc golf course, hiking and biking trails and other amenities.
An avid outdoor enthusiast, Johnson took advantage of any training opportunity that came his way, becoming a certified kayak instructor, stand-up paddleboard instructor and ropes course instructor. He trained as a wilderness first responder and worked for a season as a ski instructor at Mt. Baker Ski Area.
“I’ve skied the last 82 months consecutively,” he said, traveling to remote locations like the Muir Snowfield on Mount Rainier in summer months.
When Johnson saw an opportunity to work in Whatcom County he jumped at it.
“I went to school in Whatcom County and I love Whatcom County,” Johnson said. “It’s a beautiful area and I think it has a lot of potential over time. This was not an accidental job. I love the outdoors.”
Johnson will manage the four Point Roberts parks and assist in other parks in the county’s northwest region, working Thursday through Monday.
He starting with simple steps, such as moving picnic tables off the closed section of the boardwalk to more useable locations. “I want to see more day-use areas,” he said. “It just needs some attention, someone who’s here five days a week.”
One of his goals is to get a signage plan in place. “I have been asked many questions that could have been resolved with a sign,” he said.
Johnson is also looking for opportunities to connect with the community and to set some priorities. “I’m not looking to jump in and change the world,” he said. “I want to see what the community wants.”