Women’s History Month: WDBJ7 profiles longest-serving female park ranger in Virginia
Saundra Tomlinson has been employed with the Natural Tunnel state park for nearly 50 years
Natural Tunnel State Park/Scott County, Va. (WDBJ) - Back in the 1970s, Saundra Tomlinson was the only female working at Natural Tunnel State Park. In a field where only men were employed, she took a chance and applied for an opening at the park.
Saundra Tomlinson: “I called and he told me they come up and he would talk to me and as they say the rest is history.”
Tomlinson has been employed with the Natural Tunnel State Park since 1974. The first two years she was a seasonal worker, but in 1976 is when the role for park ranger became available. Little did she know she would later hold the title of longest serving female park ranger in Virginia.
Saundra Tomlinson: “In 1976 the other park ranger that was here at the time, he got another job. And so the park manager, he encouraged me to apply for the job. And I told him I didn’t know that I wanted to do that. Because I thought, I would be doing maintenance and going to meetings, having to be out of town for days at a time and similar to what he had to do a lot, but he said my job wouldn’t change that much, which it didn’t for the first few years. And then as the park grew, other facilities opened and I worked everywhere in the park, at all facilities at one time or another.”
As she is coming up on her 50-year anniversary with the state parks, she mentions this will definitely be her last full year as an employee. “I’ve learned a lot, grown a lot and naturally I enjoy what I do. I still wouldn’t be here after 49 years.”
Tomlinson credits her late husband’s grandmother for encouraging her to stick with the job. “She lived to be 102 years old and when I first started we were talking one day and I said, I don’t know if that’s what really I should be doing and she said, ‘oh, no, honey you stick with it.’ She said she had taught at a one-room school after she had married and had children and she said, ‘I hated being away from my family but she said I stuck with it. She said, and you can too.’”
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