We recently caught up with the new Recreation Program Manager for the Red Rock Ranger District, Chris Johansen. Here's what he had to say...
What's your background?
After college, I was commissioned an officer in the United States Marine Corps and served for 10 years. After the Marines, I worked for the National Park Service at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park as an Interpretive Park Ranger. Next, I worked as a Natural Resource Specialist for the Army Corps of Engineers managing campgrounds and water-based recreation on several lakes in the South East. I then moved to Florida and transferred back to the Park Service at Gulf Islands National Seashore monitoring nesting shorebirds and sea turtles. Seeking a promotion, I accepted a position with the Department of Defense at Eglin AFB as the Recreation Program Manager. I managed the largest public recreation program in the DoD. The program consisted of hunting, fishing, horseback riding, camping, mountain biking, beach activities, and 71 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail.
What attracted you to this position?
My initial attraction was to the area. Sedona is as beautiful as any of the National Parks in the country. This part of Arizona offers so many outdoor activities for myself and my family. We all enjoy hiking, camping, skiing, and mountain biking.
I had heard about the strong volunteer organizations and stewardship programs affiliated with the Coconino and particularly the Red Rock District. The bond between the Forest and the community was a major attractor. I am looking forward to all the progress our volunteer groups and the Forest Service can make together on the Red Rock District.
Also, I have wanted to work for the Forest Service ever since I was a child
How is the Forest Service different from the DoD?
There are many similarities between the Department of Defense and the Forest Service and many differences. The similarities are the same with all Federal Service, similar procedures and regulations.
The biggest difference is the community ties and the passion coming from the people that live in the Sedona area. The recreation program couldn’t survive without volunteer hours and all the work done by these groups. It is truly amazing to hear the thousands of hours put in from the Graffiti Volunteers to the Verde Valley Cyclist Coalition and many more volunteer organizations.
What's the most interesting thing you did or saw moving from Florida to Arizona?
My dad came out to help me move and we decided to get off the interstate and take two lane roads from Junction, Texas to Flagstaff. We ended up passing through Capitan, New Mexico and saw where Smokey the Bear is from. We pulled over and saw the Capitan Mountains where Smokey was rescued from the fire. It is a very beautiful part of New Mexico and it was especially relevant that I was driving across the country to work for the Forest Service.
My vision for the Red Rock District
My vision for the District is to continue to provide stewardship for our community to remain engaged and to increase community participation. I plan to receive as much input as possible from our partners with what is going well and to benefit from what we can do better. Also, I would like to expand our partnership with the Red Rock Trail Fund and engage in new opportunities. I would like to find a balance with increasing visitation and protecting the fragile natural resources here in the Red Rock District.
What's been your biggest challenge since taking over?
There really hasn’t been any challenges. I have been very fortunate to have an excellent staff that have a strong knowledge base about the program and the area. Many employees have deep ties with the community stakeholders and the community. I have met so many positive people since moving here it makes it easy to transition to the Recreation Staff Officer position.
Anything you'd like to add?