Caretaker of the parks
Viewers of the 2018 film "Leave No Trace," who are also regulars at Clackamas County parks, may have noticed a familiar face.
Victor Harshman, a ranger at Eagle Fern and Metzler parks, had a small role in the movie as they filmed at Eagle Fern Park. Fittingly, he played a park ranger.
Though Harshman has worked with several production companies as they filmed in Clackamas County parks, this was his first time acting.
"To be on the other side with the camera pointed at me was quite an experience," he said. "I don't speak, but you can definitely see me in the movie."
Harshman started working for Clackamas County Parks as a seasonal ranger in 1992. He was hired full time several years later.
Whether the parks are bustling with activity during the summer or quieter during the winter, Harshman has a variety of tasks to complete.
During the off season, Harshman works on landscaping, construction and maintenance projects. In the spring and summer months, Harshman assists people camping and visiting the parks during the day.
"I like being involved with people, whether they're campers or day use," he said. "Some people might have misconceptions (about what rangers do). It's not all driving around, telling people what to do."
Many people also hold weddings in the parks, and Harshman helps them plan for those events.
"I do a lot of logistics," he said, noting that people often ask about where they can set up, if they can pay for everyone's parking and what kind of permits they'll need.
He also works with projects being filmed in the parks. In recent years, these have included "Wild," "The Librarians" and "Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling."
Harshman has lived at a house at Eagle Fern Park since the early 1990s.
"It's a wonderful experience. I really enjoy living there," he said. "I've spent so much time there, I really know the park and can answer any questions."
He noted that rumors of a Satanic cult occupying the park in the 1990s led other rangers to be hesitant to live there. He thinks the rumors stemmed from a religious group performing rituals in the park — but it never bothered him.
"I never thought much of it," he said.
Since he started on the job, Harshman has watched Clackamas County Parks become more family friendly.
"There used to be a lot of drinking and drugs, and we wanted the park to change to be more of family-friendly atmosphere," he said, noting that they increased law enforcement presence in the parks and coordinated events like Earth Day cleanups to make the change. "I really feel we've created a fun, safe, and enjoyable recreation experience for anyone who wants to come to our parks. This is a place you can feel comfortable bringing your kids."
Harshman particularly enjoys working — and living — at Eagle Fern Park because of the old growth forest.
"The 400-year-old trees are really special. It's hard to find places with old growth forest," he said.
Since his earliest days on the job, Harshman has enjoyed many elements of being a park ranger. "Once I started, I didn't want to get a different job. I wanted to stay here. It was too good and fun of a job," he said. "Some jobs you do the same thing over and over again, but with this job, you get to do everything. There's so much variety. It's been amazing."