Father and Son Catch Outdoor Bug
Graduates of NRCC
By Jill Kubatko
Natural Resource Police (NRP) Officer Mike Cooper had no idea in 1984 that 24 years later his own son, Ryan, would follow in his footsteps. Both have become success stories in their quests to preserve and protect Maryland’s natural resources.
Mike, now stationed in Flintstone, grew up in a family that enjoyed the outdoors. At the age of 9, while on a Grand Canyon family trip, Mike spoke with a National Park Ranger and distinctly remembers thinking, “That’s what I want to do when I grow up.”
The journey begins
Having taken a Forestry and Wildlife class in high school and worked as a seasonal ranger at Gambrill State Park, Mike was accepted to the Forestry Camp at Camp Hickory in 1984.
“My favorite memories have got to be of the people that were part of the camp,” says Mike. “The instructors were highly motivated, skilled and kind. It was an excellent opportunity to relate with people from the field…helping encourage me to strive for a career in the outdoors.”
During his time at Frederick Community College, pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Parks and Wildlife Management, visits to Herrington Manor and Swallow Falls State Parks solidified his desire to work in Garrett County.
While serving as a park technician at Gunpowder Falls State Park, Mike took the ranger’s test and was one of seven selected from 1,400 applicants. After four months at the police academy and one month of ranger school, he was assigned to Herrington Manor and Swallow Falls — his dream job.
Mike then transferred to NRP in 2005 when DNR combined the two law enforcement branches.
Not far from the tree
Mike’s son Ryan, a 2008 graduate of NRCC, has also embraced the outdoor life. A student, Boy Scout and sportsman, the younger Cooper’s self-directed education has already begun turning his dream into a reality.
“My favorite experiences included GPS and GIS mapping, traditional logging practices and the college visitations,” Ryan says. “My most memorable experience at the camp was when the employees from the Davey Tree Company came and let us use their tree climbing equipment. It was a great experience that many people never get a chance to do.”
From leading his Boy Scout troop’s 12-day, 80-mile wilderness adventure in New Mexico, to being awarded Eagle Scout, to participating in his school’s Envirothon team, Ryan has always had a passion for natural resources. He is a self-taught fly-tier, learned to build trout nets and has even made a Reflex Deflex Long Bow by hand.
“One of the ways I used the information gained at camp was to help my school Envirothon team win the county competition and go to the State competition,” says Ryan. “I passed this information on to Boy Scouts by teaching them about forestry. The camp gave me an edge over other students because I already had basic knowledge and skills.”
A merit graduate in the Life Sciences/Natural Sciences pathway and a recipient of several scholarships, Ryan is currently a freshman at Garrett College studying Wildlife and Fisheries. He plans to transfer to Frostburg State University. During the summer, Ryan works fulltime at Herrington Manor State Park, and is an Assistant Hunter Education Instructor.
“This camp provided experiences that I will use for the rest of my life,” he adds. “He has great potential,” says his mom, Melanie. “We are very proud of him and his accomplishments thus far. We think he has a great future ahead.”
Jill Kubatko is the Publications Manager in DNR’s Office of Communications.