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Park ranger enjoys doing something different every day

By Dylan Lysen

The park life has always fit well with Matt Colvin, a Tuttle Creek Lake park ranger.

“I’ve always liked the outdoors,” he said.

Tuttle Creek Lake State Park employs two park rangers who have a litany of responsibilities, Colvin said. Along with enforcing state law within the park, they also check permits, and even build structures for use in the park. He said his favorite part of the job is the variance of work.

“One day I can be in the office selling permits and working on maintenance, or I can be out doing law enforcement,” he said. “I get to pick and choose at times what I want to do for the day.”

Park rangers are state employed law enforcement officers who focus mainly on Kansas wildlife and park regulations, but the rangers go through the same academy as police officers and will often deal with the same issues as the Riley County Police Department.

Colvin, 29, said he’s dealt with fights, speeding cars and collisions along with enforcing park regulations.

“We do a little of everything,” he said.

In the winter, Colvin takes care of several campgrounds along the lake and supervises some college students studying park management, he said. But in the summer weekends, he’s fully in law enforcement mode because there are so many campers, most notably during the Country Stampede music festival, he said. Robert Gray, who is also a Tuttle Creek Park Ranger, said Colvin understands how to enforce the law without ruining the party, which is helped with Colvin’s laid back and friendly demeanor.

“He’s good with the public,” he said. “He takes his job seriously and we know people are coming out here to have a good time. He’s understanding with someone who’s doing something they probably shouldn’t, usually because they don’t know any better. He wants to make sure they are having a good time and doesn’t want to ruin their weekend.”

Colvin and his wife Amber have an eight-monthold daughter named Reagan. Gray said his fatherhood may have helped him relate to park visitors.

“He’s a family man and that’s a lot of the people we get out here (too),” he said. “He’s always willing to go out and help, or give them advice or any information they need. He represents the park very well.”

Colvin and Gray work together on several projects in the park, including building a new fishing dock for the small lake just south of the lake’s dam.

“It’s really nice because we feed off of each other,” Gray said. “If I run into a problem he’s always there to back me up and give me ideas and I’m the same way.

“We’re definitely bouncing ideas off each other to make sure what we’re putting out there is good for the public,” he added.

Colvin, who is originally from White City, said he’s lived in Manhattan since he moved here for college. After graduating from White City High School, he spent two years at Hutchinson Community College and moved to K-State to study park management, graduating in 2009.

“I kind of just picked that degree and followed it,” he said.

Colvin’s love of the outdoors is evident in his employment but also his insistence to return home in White City almost weekly to help his father on the family farm. Colvin said he would like to own his own farm, but is too expensive at the moment.

He also likes to get outdoors to shoot archery, his favorite hobby. But with a young daughter at home, Colvin said he doesn’t get out much, which is fine by him.

“I don’t get out much,” he said, laughing. “We just kind of hang out.”

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