Bruce Farnham, manager of Mt. Blue State Park in Weld, moves a kayak off the beach late last month. Farnham is the longest-running park manager on the job this summer in the state park system. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

WELD — Bruce Farnham was a few years into his career when a boy asked what he had wanted to be when he grew up.

“I’d never really thought about it,” remembered Farnham, 69. “I said a park ranger. I kind of realized at that point I did what I wanted to do.”

And, decades later, he’s still doing it.

Farnham is the longest-serving park manager on the job this summer, helming Maine’s largest state park for the 34th season.

He grew up in Toledo, Ohio, camping and traveling a lot with family, and eventually visited friends here and stayed.

Farnham’s state park path began at Ferry Beach State Park in Saco for five years, where he moved up from laborer to park manager. Then it was five years at Aroostook State Park.


Then, Mt. Blue State Park caught his eye.

Bruce Farnham, manager of Mt. Blue State Park in Weld, drives through the park late last month on his rounds. The park is low on help this year, but Farnham said all of the staff just fill in and get everything done. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“My interest is always the mountains and lakes more than the ocean,” he said. “For whatever reasons, I got comfortable at Mt. Blue. When openings came up, I looked at other parks but always came back to Mt. Blue.”

With 8,000 acres, it’s the largest in the state park system and draws 25,000 to 30,000 campers and 40,000 to 50,000 day visitors a year.

He and his wife, Dianna, who has held a variety of roles for just as long, live in “an old farmhouse that was here before the park,” he said. It doubles as an office and headquarters. “I’ve had a lot of family come through the doors here. We’ve been here a long time now. This is home.”

Farnham has a crew of 11 in the summer, five of them rangers. Days this time of year start as early as 6 a.m. and outside of administrative duties, it sounds best not to have a plan.

He might be needed at the entry booth. A bear could be by the garbage. There could be an issue with the sewer system. Rangers might need an extra hand.


“My wife took a picture of one of my crew that I sometimes used in slideshows when I was talking to groups,” Farnham said. “He had basically a chain saw hooked to his belt, a rake, a broom, a cleaning bucket, just everything you could think of on him. People think it’s all glamorous, out in the woods, taking care of wildlife, communing with nature, but there is a lot of maintenance things we do to keep everything running smoothly.”

In the summer especially, “It’s a 24/7 job,” he said.

November and April are the quiet months.

“More often than not, if we’re not doing chores, we’re visiting some park or natural area. And when we can, visiting family,” Farnham said. “Personally I’ve been to every state but Alaska and most of that traveling has involved state parks and national parks, if not staying with family or friends.”

He’s seen plenty change when it comes to camping over 34 summers. He sees a lot more hammocks and just generally “stuff.” What was once a tent or pop-up and a few sleeping bags is now two to three tents or a camper or recreational vehicle.

“They used to come in one vehicle, now they come in two because they can’t get everything in one vehicle,” Farnham said. “At Mt. Blue, you still can’t use a cellphone in the campground — that still kind of ties us (to the old days.) That will someday change in the not-too-distant future. So people are still, to some degree, forced to get away from that part of their everyday life.”

He doesn’t have any pressing plans to retire like many of his state park peers, instead taking the job year by year and evaluating after each summer.

“As long as I’m able to keep motivated and my interest alive,” he’ll keep at it, Farnham said. “I’ve always loved the outdoors. I’m working where I like to be, so that’s what’s kept me here. I’m in a park and I’m close to nature.”

Bruce Farnham, manager of Mt. Blue State Park in Weld, walks to the beach late last month. Farnham is in his 34th summer season overseeing the park. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

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