Gov. Doug Burgum announced Tuesday, Jan. 15, that Ryan Gardner will serve as interim director of the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, effective Monday, Jan. 20.
Gardner is currently the department’s west regional manager, overseeing eight sites in western North Dakota. He will succeed outgoing Parks and Recreation Director Melissa Baker, who resigned effective Friday, Jan. 17, to become the next director of Virginia State Parks, which will allow her to be closer to her children and grandchildren.
Gardner joined the Parks and Recreation Department in May 2010 as a seasonal park ranger at Grahams Island State Park near his hometown of Devils Lake. He began working full-time for the department in May 2012 as a park ranger at Lewis and Clark State Park near Williston, becoming the park’s manager a year later. He was promoted to west regional manager in November 2017 and moved to Bismarck.
Prior to joining Parks and Recreation, Gardner spent a year and a half as a seasonal worker in the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s fisheries division. He earned a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife biology in 2008 from the University of North Dakota.
The Parks and Recreation director oversees North Dakota’s 15 state parks and recreation areas and is a member of the governor’s cabinet. Applications are currently being accepted for the director’s position, and a job description is posted here.