Alicia working in a state park

A conversation with Maintenance Mechanic Alicia Burki

Just like the wide array of state parks we're honored to steward, the people who are at the forefront of natural resources management bring a beautiful and varied set of skills to the field. Your state parks employees are scientists, tech experts, engineers, artists, communicators, teachers, data analysts, and so much more.

Today, we're celebrating the interdisciplinary approach to learning: STEAM. STEAM encourages us to teach and to learn in ways that combine (S)cience, (T)echnology, (E)ngineering, the (A)rts, and (M)ath. Every level of our work uses these skills to creatively problem solve and build resilient and equitable outdoor places for communities to explore. We're excited to see the creative ways our future leaders build on this work.

Meet Alicia Burki

Curious about how STEAM comes to play in parks? Look no further than Maintenance Mechanic Alicia Burki.

Alicia started as a volunteer at Deception Pass State Park with the Maintenance Crew. Not long after that, she became a park aide. After working there for two seasons, Alicia went back to school to earn her degree in Recreation Management with her sights set on becoming a ranger. However, she found that she really loved intense physical labor, spacial problem solving, and operating more behind the scenes so, instead, she pivoted and took on the role of Maintenance Mechanic.

Maintenance staff are the main field stewards of all human-made facilities and structures in each park. In some cases, several parks. In Alicia's case, her crew maintains five parks. They are the plumbers, the carpenters, the electricians, equipment operators, mechanics, and so much more. As you can imagine, no two days are ever the same. They always have an ongoing project list to prioritize and work from. At the same time, they always have to be ready at the blink of an eye to switch gears and address urgent matters, whether it be an emergency waterline repair or to check on an electrical issue at a campsite.

And that's not all.

In addition to being a jack-of-all-trades for our parks, Alicia has also taken her love of the outdoors and turned it into art.

Enjoy her poem, “An Ode to Stewardship,” below.

Alicia Burki unloads lumber from the back of a truck
Alicia unloads concrete blocks from the back of a truck




An Ode to Stewardship

In a society distracted by hollow performance,

It is easy to lose sight of what is truly important:

Leading a life of purpose and collaboration,

Yes, our work still inspires action with compelling persuasion,

Through the dying art of conversation, interpretation, and knowing how to spark the imagination.

Imagination and wonder of the earth's creations, her restorative benefits, and environmental emancipation.


We take care of our surroundings by taking care of each other,

And we are all responsible for facilitating the buffer,

Of the misunderstanding and mistreatment of resources,

So that our children's children will not have to suffer the recourse,

Of growing up without nature or wonder,

For their imaginations to adventure and wander.


Therefore, let us lead lives guided by principles,

That will foster the next generation of sensible inquisitors.

And as our time on this planet continues to fold,

I want you to know that I will always behold,

Our collective effort of what stewardship entails,

So that humanity's greatest potential is the one that prevails.

Alicia Burki stands with Construction and Maintenance Specialist Joseph Collins and Maintenance Mech
Alicia Burki and her coworkers, Construction and Maintenance Specialist Joseph Collins and Maintenance Mechanic Mitch Valko


Author's note

This is a poem I wrote about stewardship and what it means, especially in outdoor spaces. The original version of the poem, titled “An Ode to Parks,” was written in dedication to Park Ranger Shawn Douty. Her appreciation and support for every role within the field is one of the reasons why I chose to pursue the path I am on now.

It has taken me about five years, but I think I finally understand the lesson she was trying to instill all along: that everyone deserves support. This poem is dedicated to everyone involved, both in the agency and all of our partners. May it serve as a reminder of the importance of our work and to honor those, like Shawn, who continue to inspire the next generation of stewards.

Orange trees with their fall leaves line a trail in Manchester State Park
Fall trees line the road in Manchester State Park. Photo by Alicia Burki

Originally published November 09, 2022

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