LI couple fell in love in the parks

Josh Reyes and Lindsay Ries, the only National

Josh Reyes and Lindsay Ries, the only National Park Service couple on Long Island, are expecting a baby boy soon. (Dec. 13, 2012) (Credit: Newsday / Ed Betz)

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It would not surprise anyone who knows Josh Reyes and Lindsay Ries if their first child, due this month, pursued a career as a park ranger.

Both of them, after all, are avid skiers and outdoorsy types in general. And both are National Park Service rangers -- he at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site and she at Fire Island National Seashore.

At the moment, they are the only ranger couple at the two National Park Service units in Nassau and Suffolk -- a situation that has benefits and disadvantages.

Reyes, 33, and Ries, 30, met at a party in their native Maryland when he was a sophomore at Anne Arundel Community College and she was a senior in high school. "We were in the same circle of friends," Reyes said. "We had common interests" -- especially music, Bob Dylan in particular.

Reyes transferred to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in his junior year. There the history major joined the history club. And when a ranger from Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine spoke at a meeting about volunteering, Reyes volunteered.

At first, he answered phones and manned the information desk. But when his supervisors saw he was good with people, he was hired as a seasonal ranger and began giving tours. After two summers at Fort McHenry and before he graduated from college, he was accepted into a two-year Park Service program to train new rangers and provide them with permanent positions.

He spent his two years at Booker T. Washington National Monument in rural Virginia while Ries was a student at UMBC. "We were still together, but now we were five hours apart," Reyes said.

Meanwhile, Ries, a biology major, had also been bitten by the park ranger bug. She spent the summer of 2004 as a natural resources interpreter at Acadia National Park in Maine, before returning for her last year of college.

"It was a wonderful introduction to the Park Service," she said.

"But," Reyes added, "we were farther apart."

The difficulties of being a couple working for the same federal agency were beginning to emerge.

 

Lots of moves

When he completed the entry program in June 2005, Reyes was assigned to the Theodore Roosevelt homestead in Cove Neck, where he manages the volunteer program, the website and public relations.

Ries came with him to the Island, and they moved into a cottage at Sagamore Hill. Two days later, she obtained a Student Conservation Association wildlife management internship with the Park Service at Fire Island for the summer and fall of 2005. Seasonal wildlife monitoring jobs followed with the National Audubon Society, Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. After obtaining her master's degree from Columbia University, Ries got another seasonal job with the Park Service at Gateway National Recreation Area's Breezy Point unit in Queens.

After only six weeks, she interviewed sucessfully for a position as a permanent wildlife biologist ranger at Fire Island in 2008 -- a week after the couple were married, in a park, in Maryland.

While reveling in their ability to get paid for working in their areas of interest, Ries and Reyes have learned the pluses and minuses of being a married couple working for the parks agency.

One advantage, Ries said, is they can get inside information from colleagues around the country on good places to visit while on vacations. "We always vacation in other national parks out west," she said. "We're a little dorky like that. We can get tips from our friends in the Park Service about good hiking trails."

And sharing the same slow season at work -- the winter -- facilitates ski trips out west.

"The disadvantage," Reyes noted, "is trying to move up with dual careers. When you first get in, the saying is 'In order to move up, you have to move out' " to a different park or office. "When it's one person, you can go anywhere." Finding two open slots in one park or region is more difficult.

 

Looking for 2 jobs in 1 spot

Since they both hail from the Washington, D.C., area, where there are many national park units, they ultimately hope to relocate there.

"We decided we would only move if there are two permanent positions available, because we don't want to live far apart," Ries said.

The only relocation of late has been a joint move in October from the smallish cottage at Sagamore Hill to a more spacious house they bought in Kings Park. The change gives Ries the better commute now.

But the main reason for the shift was her pregnancy: They needed room for a nursery and guest rooms for doting relatives.

They know it's a boy, but they won't select a name until "we see his face," Ries said.

The couple has removed the wallpaper and carpeting, painted the walls and set up the nursery -- already stocked with baby clothes -- while they continue to unpack boxes and decide where the Bob Dylan poster will hang.

And when it comes time for their firstborn to choose a career, Reyes said, "of course we would love for our son and any additional children to work for the National Park Service or a job similar in nature with maybe the state or nonprofit organization.

"Lindsay and I have had discussions," he added, "on what will be the first national park we will take him to -- besides Sagamore and Fire Island, of course."

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