Reed McCluskey enjoys Skagway’s Fourth of July festivities with a lipstick kiss from Barb Brodersen on his cheek. Submitted by KGRNHP
McCluskey retires after 35 years with the NPS
By KATIE EMMETS
After almost 15 years of service to Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Reed McCluskey will retire at the end of the year.
McCluskey first came to KGRNHP as Chief Ranger in 1998 and moved to Chief of Administration in 2006 where he managed the park’s historic building leases and commercial use permits.
McCluskey said the first piece of advice he received when he moved to Skagway was to be really careful about saying “yes.” And even though he was warned, McCluskey quickly found himself immersed in town volunteerism.
Six months after taking the job at KGRNHP, McCluskey was on the Skagway Chamber of Commerce board of directors and a member of the Skagway Volunteer Fire Department.
“You get sucked in here really fast,” he said. “I was oversubscribed, but I was so flattered by people saying they could really use my help.”
McCluskey said he still looks fondly back on the first year he was asked to organize the Ducky Derby as part of the chamber’s 1998 Fourth of July festivities.
He rallied a few people, made sure the rubber ducks were in place in Pullen Creek, and was confident that everything would go smoothly.
After the ducks were released, someone asked him about the net that catches the ducks in Pullen Pond.
But there was no net in place.
Before volunteers could stop the rubber ducks from leaving the pond, they made their journey to sea via Pullen Creek and surrounded a Holland America Cruise at the Broadway Dock, he said with a laugh.
Until recently, McCluskey helped out with the Fourth of July in many ways.
“It’s only been a few years that I haven’t been a ball and chain to the Ducky Derby, which is a favorite for everyone,” he said.
Whether it was riding his bicycle around in his park uniform and jeans with suspenders and a bowler hat, emceeing events or rerouting the parade to allow tour buses to access Skagway streets, McCluskey loved helping out with the Fourth of July.
“That’s part of the attraction to this place,” he said. “You get involved in a very big way.”
McCluskey will be retiring after more than 35 years with the National Park Service.
Growing up in California, McCluskey enjoyed hiking and camping trips with his family, which inspired him to become a park ranger.
He started out working seasonally at Mt. Diablo State Park in California, and after college he took a year-round position at the NPS Denver Service Center in 1977, doing planning and design.
“Because most people started out working seasonally, any permanent job was a foot in the door,” he said.
Though this position allowed him to travel and work at various parks, including Redwood National Park and Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, McCluskey still had his eye on a uniformed ranger job.
And in 1981, he found one at Channel Islands National Park.
In order to become a backcountry ranger for Channel Islands, McCluskey had to undergo a training regiment that included law enforcement, firefighting, boating and scuba diving.
While working at Channel Islands, McCluskey was sent on a detail to Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area to help with a renaissance fair.
While they were both working as “National Parking Rangers” for the event, McCluskey met his wife Marlene, a fellow park law enforcement officer.
After the fair, Marlene told him she wouldn’t be off work for a few hours, but if he wanted, he could go make them dinner in her house.
And he did.
The McCluskeys married, lived in a Quonset hut on San Miguel Island, and when Marlene was pregnant with their second son, John, McCluskey took a job at Grant Canyon National Park in 1986.
The McCluskeys lived on the border of the Navajo reservation in Desert View, where the closest school was 25 miles away, he said.
In 1991 McCluskey’s oldest son, Arlen, was old enough to go to school, and the family moved to Albuquerque.
As chief ranger of the newly created Petroglyph National Monument, McCluskey was instrumental in building a park and setting up offices and a visitor center.
The park was created the year prior to his arrival and McCluskey said he was told “go make a park out there, work with the city, here’s a map.”
After staying for seven years, the MuCluskeys moved to Skagway, where their sons attended middle and high school.
“Reed has done a great job at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park,” said Superintendent Mike Tranel. “He has been a tremendous asset to me over the past couple of years since he knows the background on how things work at the park, and he understands where we need to go in the future.”
The McCluskeys have put their house up for sale and are planning to move to Columbia, California, a small town that has a rich California Gold Rush history.
“Its kind of like a landlocked Skagway,” he said. “But it has hot dry summers and cool wet winters.”
The McCluskeys are in the process of purchasing a fixer-upper house, which they will likely move to after April when Marlene retires from her job at the Skagway Convention and Visitors Bureau.
McCluskey said they are looking forward to fruit trees, chickens, woodworking, quilting, and fixing up their house to use as a rental someday.
When asked what he’ll miss the most about Skagway, he said there is no contest – a sense of community.
“It goes well beyond the many good friends we've made through the years and extends to a shared sense of what this place and its inhabitants are all about: anyone willing to contribute of themselves to the community finds immediate acceptance, friendship, and ultimately support,” he said. “I'm going to miss that, a lot.”