“My role as interpretive ranger is to develop, plan and conduct all of our programs and special events,” Toft said. “Many of these programs are for the public but we also do programs for school groups, youth groups, scouts and summer camps. I’m also our volunteer coordinator and responsible for marketing our programs and events.
“… What I really love about my job is the opportunity to learn. Every day I’m learning to become more observant and consequently am learning more about the environment.”
Name: Marcus Toft
Occupation (title): Interpretive ranger
City of residence: Cartersville
Family: Amy (wife) and Damian (7-month-old son)
Education: Bachelor of Science in Anthropology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and Master’s in History from University of West Georgia
How long have you been working at Red Top Mountain State Park and what led you to this line of work?
A: I have been working at Red Top, in some capacity, for over four years. My older brother, Chris, is the one who everyone in my family thought would become a park ranger. My original intention was to become an archaeologist but after struggling to find work after college, my sister told me about the Georgia State Park internship program. She lives in Norcross so I requested Red Top, which isn’t too far away, and was accepted. I moved down in October of 2009 and then was hired as the part-time naturalist in March of 2010. Last September I was hired as the full-time interpretive ranger.
What is your favorite program at Red Top and why?
A: I love doing our Live Animal program. We have painted turtles, a box turtle, a corn snake and a king snake that we get out, talk about and show to people. To me snakes are such fascinating creatures and there is so much misinformation and fear about them that I really enjoy the opportunity to teach people more about them.
What was your role in gathering information for the Leake Mounds Interpretive Trail signs? What did you enjoy most about your contribution and what was the most interesting fact that you discovered about the American Indians who lived at the site near Highway 113 and the Etowah River from 300 B.C. to A.D. 650?
A: While studying at UWG, I worked on the interpretive panels for my graduate assistantship and, ultimately, my thesis. My involvement was more on the design side, creating the panels based on the information that the archaeologists had discovered. What I enjoyed most was the challenge of crafting a story from all of the information. Eventually what we focused on was the fact that the American Indians were attracted to the Leake Site’s location for many of the same reasons that attract us today, primarily its access to transportation and wealth of natural resources. In my opinion, the most interesting thing about the Leake Site excavations was the discovery of a small pottery sherd that was made from soil at the Mann Site in Indiana. To have a tangible connection like that between two distant sites is remarkable.
What was it like for you to attend the Leake Trail dedication ceremony in October 2013 and see the signs installed?
A: In a word: amazing! The project was such a labor of love for so many people and it was deeply rewarding to see it really coming together. My early panel designs were pretty terrible, but over the two years that I worked on them, I think they evolved nicely and I’m proud of the way they turned out. I hope other people enjoy them as well.
What is your greatest professional and/or personal achievement?
A: Earning my master’s degree. I was coming back to Cartersville almost every weekend to work at the park and my (now) wife and I were dating long-distance for much of it. There was a lot going on but it has all worked out so well.
If you were not in your line of work, what would you like to do?
A: One aspect of my job at Red Top that I’ve really come to enjoy is the marketing and communications; creating fliers, writing press releases and trying to reach people via social media. So if I weren’t in interpretation, I would like to do something with those skills.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
A: Patient, observant and hard-working
What is the best advice you have ever received?
A: I had to think about this for a long time. I think my answer is to “Stop and smell the roses.” When we don’t take the time to slow down and process what’s happening around us, we miss out on so much. Our world can become boring because we’re taking so much for granted. The next time you go hiking at Red Top, take your time and focus on the songs the birds are singing, the animals that are moving around (sometimes almost silently), or even the changes happening in the trees and other plants. Once you start to pay attention it will be like you’re discovering a whole new world.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: Reading (theology and historical fiction, mostly), hiking with my family and bird-watching.
Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
A: Red Top Mountain State Park, of course! It really is; when I have a day off and my wife is working, I love nothing better than to hike the trails with my son.