50 Years of Saving Snake Lake

Bob Ramsey leading a nature walk at Snake Lake in 1980

In the beginning, the center was a bare-bones operation, dependent largely on volunteers. Ramsey’s job eventually turned full time. He laid the groundwork for several activities the center carries on to this day, including guided nature walks, summer day camps, Girl Scout workshops and winter excursions to Mount Rainier National Park for snow shoeing and sledding. By 1984, the center’s value to the community had become apparent. Eve Dumovich, writing in the Tacoma News Tribune, described Snake Lake as “an island of wilderness in a sea of concrete.”

Former Metro Parks recreation director Margaret McCormick, now retired, became Ramsey’s boss in the 1980s. At their first meeting, McCormick, who was younger than Ramsey, was taken aback. “He said to me: ‘You know it doesn’t matter what you tell me. I’m going to do what I want.’”

Ramsey, a World War II veteran, was quite a character. On the job, Ramsey – who was known as the Old Ranger – regularly patrolled the grounds wearing a Smokey Bear-style campaign hat and green uniform to underscore his authority. “Ramsey,” added McCormick, “talks about the center as if it were his child… He helped to create it and was there at its conception. He nursed, nurtured and watched it grow… As it turned out, his dedication served Metro Parks well. But for Bob Ramsey and his absolute stubbornness, we wouldn’t have had a nature center.

For information about the Tacoma Nature Center, call 253-404-3930 or visit https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/tacomanaturecenter