When you think about the 423 places designated protected areas within the National Parks Service, it’s hard to imagine the nearly 20,000 employees and over 279,000 volunteers that make sure those parks are clean and open for business. Each of those employees come from a diverse background from across the entire nation, so it’s not hard to consider the fact that many may have their own tattoos. But considering the National Park Service is a federal law enforcement agency, what are their rules on body modifications?
Can a Park ranger have tattoos?
Yes, a Park ranger can have tattoos, but they must be “physically covered to the greatest extent possible” according to the National Park Service’s Uniform Reference Manual. The interpretation of this rule is left up to the superintendent of the park.
Across the nation, park rangers are working every day to keep our parks and historical locations open for business. But what do park rangers do in their day to day, and what are their uniform requirements? Read on to find out more.
What is the National Park Service?
The National Park Service was established in 1916 as a part of the United States Department of the Interior. Their mission is to care for the country’s national parks, along with preserving both natural and cultural resources for future generations, states their mission statement.
The National Park Service has jurisdiction over 20 different types of “park units” including national battlefields, national historic sites, national parks, and national preserves. While there are 63 established national parks, there are currently 163 protected battlefields, historic parks, historic sites, and military parks.
Sizes vary as well—the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska is the nation’s largest at over 13.1 million acres, while the smallest is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Philadelphia at 0.02 acres.
Also included in the National Park Service purview are national seashores, lakeshores, trails, and parkways—the Appalachian Trail and Oregon National Historic Trail are both protected areas.
Duties of the Park Ranger
While the job of a park ranger is extremely varied both from day to day and location to location, general duties include assisting in protecting resources, both natural and historical; helping visitors, perform patrols through the national park, assist in operations such as search and rescue or working with fires, administer emergency medical response when necessary, educate visitors on proper and improper activities within the national park, and various administrative duties when needed.
National Park Service Rules on Tattoos
According to the National Park Service’s Uniform Reference Manual, they define “personal adornments” as including tattoos, jewelry, pins, buttons, fingernail polish, body piercings, and any other elective body modifications.
Generally, a Park ranger should limit the number of personal adornments that they where or have while working for the National Park Service. In terms of tattoos, they must be physically covered to the greatest extent possible, stated the manual.
Because of this distinction, the extent of which it is enforced usually comes down to the supervisor or the superintendent.
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National Park Service Rules on Adornments and Grooming
Other rules on personal adornments include limiting jewelry and earrings. Jewelry cannot distract from the uniform and should not be excessively large or excessive in number, be too bright in color, or create an “unprofessional appearance” states the manual.
While men are not permitted to wear earrings, women can wear matching earrings with no more than two per lobe. The manual also permits supervisors to limit jewelry at their discretion.
Any rings or studs that are related to any sort of body piercings must be removed if they are visible in uniform. Any elective body modifications are not permitted to be visible.
When it comes to personal grooming, fingernails are required to be short—no more than a quarter of an inch long for women and “closely trimmed” on men. Men are not allowed to wear nail polish, while women can wear a conservative color that either compliments their skin tone or their uniform.
Interpretations of the Rule
While these are the standards set by the National Park Service, there are possibilities that regional, state, or local standards are different.
For example, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation does not permit any visible tattoos under a short sleeve uniform, including anything from the neck up and the arms and hands not covered by a short-sleeved shirt. Park rangers who wear shorts must not have any tattoos visible on their legs, either. The Department of Environmental Conservation permits the wearing of long-sleeved shirts or sleeves to conceal tattoos that are purchased at the ranger’s personal expense.
In Missouri State Parks, park rangers are not permitted any offensive tattoos, nor are they permitted to be visible while in uniform.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife, no tattoos from the neck up are permitted. If they are visible, offensive tattoos are also not permitted. They also state specifically in their dress code that applicants with any sort of tattoos, brandings, and/or body piercings that cannot be covered are disqualified.
Because the rules are vague from a national standpoint, the designation comes down to many of the national parks’ supervisors or superintendents. If you are looking at possibly becoming a park ranger and have a state or location in mind, consider looking up their specific tattoo rules before deciding to apply.
Are park rangers armed?
Park rangers are considered federal law enforcement officers, so they carry firearms and defensive equipment.
Can a park ranger search you?
As they are considered law enforcement officers, park rangers have all the same permissions that a police officer has—they can arrest you, execute any sort of search warrants, testify in court, and pull you over where applicable.
Is there an age limit to become a park ranger?
There is no age requirement for becoming a park ranger; it is suggested that you join the service before you are 37 years old to make 20 years of service before the mandatory retirement age of 57.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.