Sidney resident and National Park Service Ranger Joseph Ratermann was awarded the National Parks Travelers Club Flat Hat Award at a ceremony held at the Dayton Aviation National Park Saturday morning. Ratermann, an at-large Sidney City Councilmember, has worked as a Seasonal Park Ranger with the National Park Service for the past three years. He is currently assigned to the Dayton Aviation National Park. The award was based on nominations received when he worked at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park last year.
Presented annually, the Flat Hat Award recognizes any National Park Service (NPS) employee or volunteer that made the visit of a member or members of the National Parks Travelers Club to one of the nation’s 417 sites managed by the NPS particularly memorable. This award is open to the more than 21,650 NPS employees (full time or seasonal) as well as the thousands of NPS volunteers who assist at the sites.
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park Acting Superintendent Jewel Harris opened the award ceremony. “I’ve known Ranger Joe Ratermann for some time,” Harris remarked. “He authentic, he’s enthusiastic, he’s knowledgeable, he’s the real deal! The National Park Service is fortunate to have him!”
In her remarks, National Parks Travelers Club President Connie Corrigan spoke about the award and paid tribute to Ratermann’s passion for his work. “Several years ago, our club decided to create an award to recognize those rangers and volunteers who go above and beyond to make a visit to one of the national parks memorable for participants. When deciding on a name for the award, we thought we would pay homage to the headwear seen on park rangers nationwide and so the Flat Hat Award was born. We honor just one ranger or volunteer each year and the awards committee is often hard pressed to decide on a winner with so many wonderful nominations received.”
“This year marks the first time we have received two separate and distinct nominations for the same ranger, and ultimately this individual was chosen as our winner,” Corrigan stated. “In the words of one nominator: ‘this Ranger inspires visitors, ensures that each visitor has a memorable and meaningful experience, and works to be a true professional as an interpreter.”
Corrigan then noted that Ratermann was a ranger at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park at the time he was nominated, and mentioned a few of his many accomplishments while assigned there. Those accomplishments included serving as a CPR instructor; introducing the park film to more than 6,000 visitors; conducting canoe and kayak trips so that visitors could learn the history and prehistory of Paint Creek; created a Veteran’s Day program at the park; organized the first overnight camping tour at the Seip Earthworks site which ensured that the Boy Scouts participating in the event earned their National Parks Resource Stewardship Badge; greatly expanding the Park’s Junior Ranger program; and created opportunities for children to be part of the closing ceremonies at the end of the day when the national flag is retired.
In his acceptance speech, Ratermann thanked the members of the National Parks Travelers Club and paid tribute to other rangers with whom he has worked over the course of the past two seasons. “The National Parks Travelers Club has proven to be a wonderful cooperative partner with the National Park System throughout all 417 National Park sites including those challenging polysyllabic named parks such as: Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park,” Ratermann stated during his remarks.
“I have been blessed to work at these two parks with two incredible stories: Hopewell, a 2,000 year old story of those whom created awe-rendering earthworks — a culture whose people traveled this shared land that you are walking on today; and the Dayton Aviation story of three men whom lived and worked in this very same neighborhood: an African American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose talent transcended rampant racism; and two brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright, whose persistent determination, scientific method and innovative spirit led them to uncover the secrets of flight and build the world’s first practical airplane.”
“As this award reflects the efforts of thousands of overworked rangers whom are generously paid with sunrises and sunsets, I would like to thank specifically: Ranger Ryan Qualls, of Dayton, a 2017 Freeman Tilden award nominee, whose boundless enthusiasm inspires us all; Ranger Susan Knisely, of Hopewell, whose leadership by example teaches us Ranger Professionalism; and “The General” Steven Phan, whom now guards the Civil War Defenses of Washington at Rock Creek Park, for imbuing a healthy competitive spirit among Rangers in contacts with the public to ensure that each visitor has a meaningful and memorable experience,” Ratermann continued. “And, I would like to thank generally, the Rangers whom are too numerous to mention on whose behalf I accept this award today.”
The National Park Service is an agency of the United States federal government that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations. It was created on August 25, 1916, by Congress through the National Park Service Organic Act and is an agency of the United States Department of the Interior. The NPS is charged with a dual role of preserving the ecological and historical integrity of the places entrusted to its management, while also making them available and accessible for public use and enjoyment.
The National Parks Travelers Club was organized in 2004. Since it was organized, it has grown to more than 10,000 members, including more than 1700 dues paying members and more than 9700 members of the free online site www.parkstamps.org. Paying dues gives members access to the Master List, Master Database, and Master Map of all known National Park Passport Stamp locations, in addition to voting in club elections. The online site features trip reports and hints for visits to parks, information on legislation impacting parks, and a message board for park related topics.
A 1981 graduate of Lehman Catholic High School, Ratermann entered the United States Marine Corps following graduation. After serving in the Marine Corps for several years, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Wright State University and a juris doctor degree from George Mason University before continuing his career in the United States Army. He has two children Sophie and John, who also reside in Sidney.