Growing Up + Working Outdoors



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When he was a kid, County Parks Ranger Zac Dekker played outside and grew to love nature as central to his career.

Zachary Dekker, known as Zac, grew up in Encinitas exploring the ocean and canyons around him.

Sometimes he was instructed to “be home before the streetlights come on.” Zac is a park ranger at San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. “I found my love for exploring the outdoors, camping and fishing by just being outside,” he shares.

Nature Collective is a partner with County of San Diego Parks and Recreation, along with California Fish & Wildlife, for the protection and enhancement of San Elijo Lagoon.

Zac is one of our partner heroes on the trails and in our family events. He embodies the spirit of adventure and discovery with big and little things and with all people.

A month ago Zac introduced the world of desert tortoises to online participants during Nature Collective’s Virtual Connections: Inside + Outside Adventure series. Zac co-starred with Franklin, the resident desert tortoise who is cared for at the nature center. As Franklin munched on lettuces, Zac shared how this species survives in drier climates and sleeps during winter—a reptile brumation, like a mammal hibernation.

Zac elaborates that he assists the public, so that everyone may enjoy and safely use lagoon trails. “Our goal is to provide wildlife with a safe place to call home and a way for visitors to enjoy the wildlife with as little impact as possible,” he adds.

He started as a park attendant at San Elijo Lagoon over a year ago in a career borne of his outdoor experiences. Zac was a scout and when he attended University of Oregon, he learned about conservation through hunting and fishing.

“As an avid hunter and fisherman, a life goal is to promote conservation,” Zac reflects. “I feel one of the best ways to do this is through education. I try my best to educate visitors on the ways we impact the wildlife around us and how we are impacted by the wildlife as well.”

San Elijo Lagoon trails remain open (Annie’s Canyon Trail closed) with social distancing requirements. Zac enjoys meeting people who are seeking solace and recreation. “I get to see the moment when somebody makes the realization of truly how much wildlife there is, here in the reserve,” he adds as one of the highlights in being a park ranger. 

When our unusual times become a little more usual, Zac adds that he looks forward to the return of seasonal family festival celebrations. “My favorite experiences are when kids from all over the county come to learn about the lagoon and the wildlife that live here,” he shares. “It is amazing to see the amount of kids enthusiastic about nature and learning how to protect it.”

Be safe. Be outdoors where you can. When you find yourself on the trails at San Elijo Lagoon, say hi to our County Parks + Recreation partner + hero and, Ranger Zac!

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