Nation's oldest park ranger back on the job in East Bay park after government shutdown
Bay City News
Posted: 10/18/2013 11:46:38 AM PDT
Updated: 10/18/2013 11:59:17 AM PDT
RICHMOND - With federal government shutdown over and national parks back open, tourists are once again flocking to Alcatraz and Muir Woods, and one Bay Area resident who has found herself in the spotlight is happy to be back at work.
Betty Reid Soskin, 92, who has the distinction of being the National Park Service's oldest permanent park ranger, is back on the job today at Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond.
Soskin acts as an ambassador to the past for those visiting the site -- which focuses on the stories and sacrifices of American civilians back home during WWII -- and she leads two-hour bus tours, among other duties.
Betty Reid Soskin with Arsenio Hall (Bay City News)
"I'm using my oral history because I was here at the time," she said in a phone interview today.
Soskin said a number of the park's programs were canceled or scaled back during the shutdown, which began Oct. 1 and ended late Wednesday when Congress reached a temporary budget deal.
"It was really tragic because the seventh annual Home Front Festival was supposed to be held last Saturday," Soskin said.
She said the festival was still held but was scaled back because the National Park Service couldn't participate.
"We'd been preparing for about six months," she said.
Soskin's scheduled bus tours were canceled, and other reservations were put aside until they can be rescheduled.
"It did affect our ability to do our work," she said.
Soskin has been a park ranger for about seven years, and served as a consultant to the NPS for several years before that. She works full-time, five days a week.
One unexpected consequence of the shutdown was that Soskin suddenly found herself in the national spotlight as a human example of the effects of the parks closure.
She appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show on Friday, and has been interviewed by CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Energetic and restless despite being "in the last decade of my life," as Soskin says, she zipped down to Hollywood with her son for the "Arsenio" appearance and came back the same day.
The result of all the attention was that she didn't get much down time during her furlough.
"I'm afraid the world discovered me while I was off," Soskin said, joking that she had to come back to work to get a break.
Those interested in taking a tour of Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park with Soskin can call (510) 232-5050, ext. 6624. The tours are free, but reservations are required.
Soskin noted that the phone system, which was down during the shutdown, should be back up and running in the next couple of days.