Serving Barnwell County and it's neighbors since 1852

Barnwell State Park's Ashley Audette named Regional Ranger of the Year

Ranger shares on bold career shift and brave pursuit of her passion for great outdoors


Ashley Audette is a Ranger 2 at the Barnwell State Park.
Ashley Audette is a Ranger 2 at the Barnwell State Park.
Discovering your life purpose can feel like a daunting journey. The balance between checking off priorities, such as paying the bills, and pursuing your passions that make you eager for each new day is not always easy. There’s a beautiful intersection though when one’s priorities and passions might eventually cross paths, and there you can find purpose.
Barnwell State Park ranger Ashley Audette was recently recognized by the South Carolina State Park Service as Ranger of the Year for the Sandhills Region. She shares how working as a ranger has helped her more clearly discover her purpose, where her priorities and passions meet.
Audette is from a small town named Lyndon, Vermont. As a child, she wanted to be a marine biologist and reminisced about hikes with her mother. Although her passions were always for wildlife, outdoors, and animals, Audette went to college to be a restaurant manager and received her bachelor’s degree in culinary arts and food service management in 2015. But something was missing; she knew there was more for her in life.
“After managing many different types of restaurants for a few years, I realized that was no longer my passion,” shared Audette.
She began taking online classes in environmental science and received her second bachelor’s in 2021. Upon receiving this degree, Audette went on a month-long solo cross country road trip in April 2021 to check out state parks, national parks, and zoos across the country, trying to decide what she wanted to do and where she wanted to live. She landed an assistant ranger position at Table Rock State Park in Pickens, S.C. Just over a year later, Audette pursued other job openings at different parks in South Carolina and was promoted to Ranger II at Barnwell State Park.
Barnwell State Park Manager Eddie Richburg stated that when Audette applied for the ranger position, “she made a great impression, so much so that we hired her as a Ranger II, skipping her next step as a Ranger I.” Richburg emphasized that Audette is a great advocate for not only external customer service, but internal as well. “She manages several operations on the park, has joined several park service teams, and still manages to provide top-notch customer service.”
There’s no doubt that Audette has discovered her purpose, but there have been challenges along the way. One of the challenges has been physically adapting as a female to the tasks that come with the ranger role.
“Sometimes I will look at a task and think ‘I can’t do that,’ or ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ My biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone is trust yourself,” said Audette, who has learned to trust her instinct and take creative approaches to difficult tasks.

Ranger of the Year Ashley Audette (left) receives her award from Regional Chief of the Sandhills Region, Joy Raintree (right).
Ranger of the Year Ashley Audette (left) receives her award from Regional Chief of the Sandhills Region, Joy Raintree (right).
Women, such as Audette, continue to prove that they too can fulfill what used to be considered solely a male’s job.
“There are many amazing female rangers making their ways through the ranks and I think are getting close to outnumbering the men. The Regional Chief of the Sandhills region, Joy Raintree, is one of the strongest women I know, and she has been an incredible role model to me,” said Audette, who encourages women to not let their gender prevent them from pursuing their passions. “ are strong, smart, and have just as much ability to be a park ranger, or anything else want to be, as a man has.”
Audette plans to keep digging her roots in South Carolina and expanding her knowledge as a ranger. “I am currently taking Master Naturalist classes to help expand my knowledge. At the end of the 12-week course, I will be a certified Master Naturalist!”
She encourages visitors to check out the Barnwell State Park website for upcoming events and opportunities, such as the Memorial Saturday Fun Day, and other monthly programs.
To check out the park, you can go to