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Terry Wilder – Park Ranger, White Sands National Monument

By Admin | October 24, 2009

Where are you from?

Originally, I am from Covington Kentucky up until age 17. Then
over 20 years in the United States Air Force, which led me to Alamogordo area (adjacent to the White Sands Monument)

Where did you go to college and what was your academic major?

New Mexico State University and it was Occupational Business.

What has been your career path from college to your current position at White Sands?

Well, since I did not start college till I retired from the Air Force I was finishing up my degree when I was offered a position at
White Sands as a seasonal employee.

What are your typical duties day-to-day at the White Sands?

Along with being a visitor use assistant – fee collector – I am in charge of the Special Use Program. Permits for weddings, group use area applications, and special events that includes our Annual Hot Air Balloon Festival, Early Easter Sunrise Service, etc.

If you weren’t a national park ranger, what would you be doing?

I would probably be working on the Air Force Base for the government as an aircraft inspector overseeing a civilian contractor working on Air Force airplanes.

How does having an Air Force base right next door to the monument impact it?

Pretty good for us actually, whenever they have some type of event such as Airshow, Octoberfest, Base Open House we get over flow to the Park and our visitation goes up a bit. Although, we have had aircraft crash on our property and it makes for quite a red tape mess.

What is one little known fact about the park that you want visitors and readers to know?

That 3 to 4 inches down in the sand the temperature stays at a pretty constant 57 degrees, no matter how hot or cold it is. You get lost in the cold of the winter at night, then just bury yourself in the sand and you will stay warm till morning. In the summer if it is
115 degrees just bury yourself and you will stay cool till the sun goes down.

Here is a bonus. Eighteen inches down from anywhere on the hardpacked sand or at the bottom of a dune you will reach water. Very salty water but water none the less.

How did the white sands actually form? Are they still forming?

The real short version is that the gypsum is in the mountains and the wind and rain carry it to Lake Lucero twnty miles down the road. When when the lake bed dries up the gypsum chunks break apart and are carried by the wind and replenish the dunes.There is a seventeen minute film on the whole process in our Visitors Centers.

What is your favorite part of the monument?

Two or three miles out from the heart of the dunes on top of a big dune with a cool summer breeze blowing across you as the sun goes down in the fiery sky of southwestern New Mexico.

What are the two biggest challenges that the White Sands monument faces?

Education of a new generation to the enjoyment of all for the National Parks and to the protection of this precious resource we have been entrusted with. Such programs as the Junior Ranger Program and on-site visits to the schools to talk to the kids who will soon enough be responsible for taking care of the Park System.

Is the White Sands featured at all in the new Ken Burns” documentary?

Honestly, I do not know if we are and I have not been following the Ken Burn’s specials.

How many people visit the monument every year?

We get anywhere from 450,000 to 600,000 a year give or take the economy

Has anyone ever got lost and stranded in the monument or died from exposure?

We have numerous people get lost and found every year and we have had one fatality since this place
became a National Monument.

Copyright 2009 DailyInterview.com

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