Woman stands in front of a truck with evergreen trees in the background

A conversation with South Sound Area Manager Olyvia Buday

From student volunteer and park aide to area assistant and manager, Olyvia has forged happy trails on an unexpected career path.

In her own words:

I started my career with Parks as a volunteer in the summer of 2015. I grew up only ten minutes from Penrose Point State Park and thus, it made the most sense. Even though I was Pre-Med, I’d taken a parks management class in college that included an ‘internship’ with a national park. Since I lived near a state park, my professor graciously made an exception. During that summer at Penrose Point, I worked with Ranger Janet Halstead to create and implement interpretive programs for campers, and I assisted in various parks and trail activities. Afterward, I switched majors to Environmental Studies.

Starting out after college

In summer of 2017, after I graduated college, I applied to become the park aide at Joemma Beach State Park. I enjoyed being outside and getting to spend every day somewhere beautiful. I also worked closely with Ranger Kristie Cronin. She and Janet were so inspiring, I decided I wanted to become a ranger. I spent the summer cleaning restrooms, campsites and trails. As my career has developed, I realize the small things like cleaning restrooms and leaf blowing were some of my favorite ‘mindless’ tasks.

My job now carries much more responsibility, so sometimes I’ll clean a bathroom just to clear my head. It ends up being super therapeutic; I do some of my best thinking while cleaning bathrooms   LOL.

Three young people wearing Parks uniforms sit at the helm of a Parks boat on the water. The photo is taken as a group selfie.
Olyvia, at left, learned about Parks boats as a park aide and ranger, and found out she liked navigating, figuring out the tides and boating in the Sound.

Coming full circle

After my first and only summer as a park aide, I put myself through the PLEA (Parks Law Enforcement Academy) — at the time, the agency didn’t do sponsorships.* Once I graduated from the academy in April of 2018, I was placed at Belfair State Park in the South Sound area. I was excited and eager to start my career with Parks in the area I call home.

I spent two years at Belfair before transferring to Jarrell Cove for another two years. I found myself enjoying the boat duties typical of Puget Sound park workers – driving them, navigating in open water, consulting the tides – and also the more primitive aspects of a smaller park.

When the Penrose Point Assistant Area Manager position became available, I saw an opportunity to manage the park where I’d started. It was a huge personal accomplishment to come full circle within an area I love and admire. I worked as the Assistant Area Manager for about two years before applying for the Area Manager position in South Sound.

Two park aides, one in an orange waterproof jumpsuit, work on a dirt trail project with shovels and hoses.
Park aides learn or hone maintenance skills, as Olyvia (right) did here.

High point (so far)

As of November, I am the Area Manager for the South Sound Area. I am incredibly honored to be running the area where I started my career. For me, being at work is like being at home.  Connecting with the local community and staff are a few things I enjoy most about my current position. The job also allows me to enjoy our parks throughout the area and make a difference in our visitors’ experiences.

Four people fish from a dock.
Joemma Beach State Park in South Puget Sound, where Olyvia worked as a park aide after college.

Learn more about becoming a State Parks park aide.

Apply to become a park aide!

*Requirements to become a Washington State Parks ranger have changed in the last few years. Learn more about how to become a park ranger.

A dock is reflected in calm water. A boat sits tied to the end of the dock.
Penrose Point State Park, where Olyvia began as a student volunteer, and later came full circle as an assistant area manager.

Originally published February 08, 2024

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