Rick Blank marks 45 years as an employee of Washington State Parks.
Lots of people call Deception Pass State Park home, albeit for a day, maybe two, or perhaps a week.
For assistant park manager Rick Blank, the rocky coastline, swirling salty waters, old-growth forest and iconic bridge have constituted his home for 27 years.
Blank has been an employee of Washington State Parks for 45 years and is the longest-tenured ranger in the field — he arrived at Deception Pass in 1990.
“I came here because I had a chance to do interpretation,” Blank said. “It was a highly visited park back then, just like it is now, and I love dealing with people. I definitely have the gift of gab.
“I wanted to develop a strong relationship between the park and all those visitors. I really love the interpretation and interaction I get to do here.”
To do anything for 45 years, one must be enamored with it, and enamored is the perfect description of Blank’s career with state parks.
At Deception Pass, Blank lives at the historical Ranger’s Cabin at Bowman Bay where his four daughters — all adults now — grew up.
“The old double-stump that sits just outside, I remember the girls putting on plays and skits on it,” Blank says. “The park system was amazing for my family.”
Most rangers stay at a particular park for much less time, before moving on their own accord or being reassigned. Blank said he hasn’t had the heart to leave his park.
“It’s the people here that have allowed me to stay,” he says. “The other rangers, the seasonal workers, my bosses. Everyone has been so supportive and I have been very lucky. This is where I was meant to be.”
Since his time at Sequim Bay, Blank has worked at 18 different state parks on the west side of the state. His stops have included Bogachiel State Park to the west on the Olympic Peninsula and as far north as Larrabee State Park. To the south, he had a stint at Reed Island State Park, which is surrounded by the waters of the Columbia River on the Oregon border.
He didn’t miss a beat when asked about his favorite park (besides his current assignment).
“In 1975-1976, I was at Ike Kinswa State Park outside of Mossyrock,” Blank said. “That was a great park. One of my first jobs was to build 60 campsites. It was a lot of fun to do that.”
Blank’s love for state parks started with his father, who was a master builder with the Navy Seabees and who helped build Camp Ramblewood, a retreat center located a stone’s throw from Sequim State Park.
Growing up so close to an outdoor mecca, Blank was naturally drawn to the great outdoors, though his dream was to be a teacher.
After high school, he attended Peninsula Junior College for two years, then transferred to Central Washington University in search of a teaching degree.
But after one year at Central, he discovered he didn’t want to teach. “I didn’t like anything about lesson plans.”
So Plan B it was — except there was no Plan B.
“I didn’t know what to do,” he says. “Then I got the opportunity to become a ranger at where else, Sequim Bay, in February of 1974. In total, I spent three years as a seasonal employee and one as a ranger at Sequim Bay. That’s where it all started.”
The sun may set on Blank’s career sooner than he would like. As of January 2019, all state park rangers will be required to be armed.
Blank has never carried a sidearm.
“I chose not to carry,” he says. “I am one of 19 rangers out of 160 in the agency who don’t. So at this time it looks like I’ll end with 47 years. I don’t regret it, I cherish every opportunity I’ve had. I’d love to get to 50, but we’ll see.
“It has been a great experience and this job has been my life. It’s one big family. I cherish every moment I’ve been here. All the other parts outside of it have just matched up. It’s wonderful.”