RMNP Receives Hi Visibility Gear
July 29, 2009, marked the fourth anniversary of the line-of-duty death of seasonal Park Ranger Jeff Christensen. Jeff died in a fall while conducting a solo backcountry patrol in the remote northwest corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. A small ceremony was held in front of Beaver Meadows Visitor Center where a memorial in Jeff’s memory had been established in 2006. Jeff’s parents, Dale and Chris Christensen, and brother Jason, all from Minnesota were in attendance.
During the ceremony, the park introduced a line of high visibility safety apparel that is now being issued to field rangers for use during backcountry patrol and in search and rescue operations. The bright yellow clothing obtained through Patagonia, Smart Wool, and Wild Things is highly functional outdoor industry equipment that is not available through the NPS uniform program. During the intensive eight-day search for Jeff in July-August of 2005, rangers walked as close as thirty feet from Jeff’s body; but because he was wearing the standard green and gray NPS uniform and lying among gray boulders and green vegetation, he was nearly impossible to see.
Acting on a recommendation from the Special Accident Investigation Team to acquire high visibility clothing, efforts were initiated by Jeff’s parents to raise funds that could be donated toward this purchase. Scenic images from Jeff’s personal camera were developed by Dale and Chris, printed into a selection of cards, and sold as “Colorado…Through a Ranger’s Lens,” “a pictorial tribute to Jeffrey Christensen.” Five thousand dollars in proceeds were transferred to the park Search and Rescue Fund and used to start purchasing the safety apparel.
During the ceremony, Dale Christensen shared the following thoughts: “We hope this contribution serves as the seed for a program that will continue to grow, not only here in Rocky Mountain but throughout the National Park system. Rangers deserve the best safety equipment and clothing available and perhaps this will help prevent another tragedy in the future.”