Park Ranger Mia Monroe is the Marin Community Liaison for the National Park Service, and one of the longest-serving employees in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area: she has worked in the park for over 40 years and has been at Muir Woods since 1982.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the GGNRA, we sat down with Ranger Mia to take a look forward, while looking back at her personal history in the parks and what the GGNRA has meant to her. Read our Q&A below:
How were you first introduced to the idea of the GGNRA?
I grew up in the Bay Area with caring, environmentalist parents, at the beginning of what would become the environmental movement. I was in college at 16 and looking for volunteer work that complemented my studies when I went to the Sierra Club and met Amy Meyer and other citizen activists. I participated in the first Earth Day and asked: 'What can I do to be helpful?'
What interested you about working in the outdoors?
Nature is where I believe we get hope. I feel a deep kinship with nature; I really believe in fostering that sense of curiosity and sharing that with others. I love seeing familiar things and learning something new. I get to share exciting things and help people see and experience and grow into deep connections. A lot of people I work with later tell me that they are transformed by national parks. They see them now as gateways into understanding the natural world. And they are - they can be transformative parts of positive changes.
I really believe in the mission of the park service: Sharing with people that there’s this special place to learn stories about the natural world and our nations’ history. Inspring that curiosity and fostering that connection. I love sharing the parks with other people. That’s one of the huge values of the GGNRA: being near an urban area gives people the opportunity to make the park a part of your daily life.
What’s your earliest memory in the GGNRA?
When I was growing up my grandmother lived in San Francisco, we would walk along the bayfront, which is now Crissy Field, beachcomb at Ocean Beach, and walk through the Presidio. As a Girl Scout, I would hike in Muir Woods. Growing up in the Bay Area, we camped, hiked, and were familiar with the lands that became GGNRA. I knew and loved these areas and what one could do here.
How has the work in the GGNRA changed since you first started? How has it remained the same?
From the earliest days, I was inspired by the commitment to partnerships that brought life to the park. I’m so thrilled to see that continue through programs like those at the Crissy Field Center and the commitment to accessibility all around. I saw those seeds early on and saw how the parks are committed to everybody.
Now I see the park is telling stories in contemporary ways, revisioning and helping people see that their landscapes can be transitioned into something healthier and more fun. Muir Woods and the watershed aren’t just a forest: they are wildlife corridors for plants and animals and people. This reimagining, that the park is not static, I saw that in the park’s earliest days. That idea that things can be different and healthier, is a powerful thing, that’s transformative. It allows people to be engaged and hopeful in the world around them.
Why do you think the GGNRA is an important park?
It was groundbreaking in the concept that a national park could be near urban areas. It transformed the idea that parks could be for everybody and should be. I remember so clearly knocking on Amy Meyer’s door and how important it is and has been to be inclusive, to have all at the table, to work hard. I value and honor citizen activists like Amy—and there are many, many like her. It’s been an honor to look back over 50 years: it’s a beautiful path at which to look back.