Photo book shows another side of Calif. park rangers

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. • In Michael G. Lynch’s new book, a ranger confronts a Velma Melmac for defoliating 22 acres in Yosemite.

She does not take it well.

“Mother Nature is a slob and you know it, bug lover,” she shouts.

Fortunately, Melmac is not a real problem. She’s a comic-strip character named for a brand of plastic dinnerware of the 1950s.

But there are plenty of genuine do-badders in Lynch’s new Images of America book, “California State Park Rangers” (Arcadia, 128 pages).

There are nudists at beaches, poachers in the woods and pot farmers in isolated mountain areas.

Park rangers have had to deal with a lot since Galen Clark was put in charge of Yosemite in 1866. Lynch captures it all, from Clark to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the 200-photo book.

Lynch, a retired ranger who is back working as the interim superintendent for the Auburn State Recreation Area, is the de facto historian for rangers.

He began collecting the photos in 1990 and approached Arcadia Publishing, which generally publishes photo histories of towns, communities or neighborhoods under the Images of America name.

When Arcadia agreed to the project, he already had 1,500 photographs. “It was a matter of winnowing them down to the 200 that best told the story,” Lynch said.

The story includes Velma Melmac, the creation of cartoonist Phil Frank, who was made an honorary park ranger.

It also includes depictions of an outdoor magazine’s short-lived plan to have pinup faux-ranger centerfolds, a ranger vehicle stuck in the dunes, and a sprinkling of cute baby forest animals.

Of course, it also tells the serious story of State Parks’ establishment and how parks have been used through the decades.

The focus is on the rangers who patrolled and protected the parks, the parks’ natural assets and the people who visited them.

The book is available in bookstores, and at and



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