Curt Barrett always wanted to be a park ranger when he grew up, and in a way, he got his wish. He and his wife, Cindy, have been caretakers at the Pinnacles Youth Park near Sturgeon, Missouri, for 10 years. The pair maintains the park, collects lost items and keeps an eye on visitors so they can get help if someone is lost or injured.
The privately-owned park was established in 1965 by Don Burk, whose son, Phillip, is president of the Board of Directors. Today, it runs entirely on donations, and despite the difficulty in maintaining the park on such a limited budget, the Barretts have worked to make it as well-kept as possible.
“They take ownership of the entire park as if it was theirs, which is a great relief for the entire board,” Phillip Burk says. “We trust them. I don’t think we could get anything better.”
Curt attended MU when he was 50 years old and earned a degree in secondary education. He and Cindy share a love of nature and hope everyone who comes to the Pinnacles will leave with the same respect for the outdoors that they have.
Did you have experiences growing up that really brought out your love for the outdoors?
Cindy: I was just a tomboy. If I had my dolls, it was out in the barnyard with my little brother, and we were burying them and bombing them and building tunnels for them. We were raised on a farm, had relatives that had farms, and I was just outside all the time. So, we made the best of it.
Curt: My dad worked for Uniroyal, and he got four to six weeks of paid vacation every year. One year in Canada — I don’t know how he even came across these people — but we ended up staying in a lodge in a miner’s camp, or a logger’s camp up in Quebec. There was nobody but miners or lumberjacks there but us. You get to see how they live, how they really are.
Which parts of your jobs do you think people might underestimate?
Cindy: It’s so amazing how many people I run into visiting the park that have never seen the park before. They think it’s state or county, you know, and they think it’s funded by the state or the county.
Curt: That’s one of the most difficult things, I find, is trying to inform these people. You’ve got to pay for a mower, for gas, you’ve got to pay or get donations for gravel. But people just kind of take it for granted.
What are your favorite national parks?
Cindy: I’ve never been to a national park. Well, Dad helped build Truman Dam and Reservoir down in Warsaw. We had to move with his work, wherever there was work, and that put him there for years, building the dam. That was exciting, going to see the dam after it was done, saying, “My dad helped build that.”
Curt: I think I’ve been to Yellowstone about five times, and every time was in a different area. It’s just, like, not even Earth. You can go see Old Faithful and all that, but Dad would take us to these other places that most people didn’t see.
What do you guys do in your downtime when you’re not taking care of the park?
Cindy: I volunteer with our church. We’ve got a thrift store in Sturgeon in the back of the church, and I volunteer there.
Curt: I got a little part-time job at a convenience store. I go socialize for a couple hours a day and get paid for it. But I’ll tell you what we do mostly on our downtime, Cindy and I: We sit right out there at our fire ring and have a campfire. ￼￼