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Canal has new chief ranger

November 04, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Rob Danno said he recalls the moment 33 years ago when a chance meeting with a park ranger in the Yosemite Valley shaped his future.

"I was on a family trip to the park on July 4," said the new chief ranger for the C&O Canal. "An amazing encounter with that ranger totally changed my life."

Danno said he was sitting along the Merced River when a ranger came over and started talking about the park. The young boy was enthralled with the park and a ranger's way of life.

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"My steps since then have been about chasing the dream of living in the woods," Danno said as he sat along the canal in Williamsport on a recent fall afternoon.

Those steps included earning a bachelor's degree in park administration from California State University in Sacramento, Calif., and a master's degree in environmental education from Humboldt University in California.

Danno, 44, has 21 years under his belt with the National Park Service, coming east after a stint as chief ranger at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

Danno came on board in mid-September. He succeeds Keith Whisenant, who left the position in December 2002.

Danno expressed excitement about working on the C&O Canal in its 175th year. In 1999, he took a 3,317-mile, cross-country bicycle trip that included the canal. He recalled how much he enjoyed the beauty and peacefulness of the 184.5 miles of the towpath, which stretches from Cumberland, Md., to Georgetown in the District of Columbia.

"We like it because we're close to Washington, D.C., without being too close," Danno said.

Danno and his family live in nearby Jefferson County, W.Va. His wife, Mary, is employed by the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va. They have a son, Troy, and two daughters, Katie and Sarah.

One of his main goals is to continue to make the canal a magnet for people.

"I like to think of my job as making this park experience special for someone else, like that ranger did for me," Danno said.

Going hand in hand with that is his quest to keep the canal and towpath preserved and in good condition.

Danno is taking over as chief ranger at a time of increasing attention to law enforcement and homeland security within the National Park Service, especially in the Washington area.

He will supervise 14 federal law enforcement rangers and will be responsible for managing the park's visitor and resource protection program, which includes law enforcement and emergency services in the park.

The C&O Canal encompasses nearly 20,000 acres, more than 1,367 historic structures and has more than 4 million visitors each year.

Danno began his National Park Service career as a ranger in 1982 at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in California. Since then, he has held ranger positions in national parks, including Grand Canyon National Park, Virgin Islands National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

"The adventure has been the fun of seeing the country through my job," Danno said.

As for that ranger who started him on the journey so many years ago, Danno said he has never forgotten him, although he never was able to find him to thank him.

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