CHEAHA STATE PARK — Although just 20 years old, Alex Prickett is already a veteran employee of Alabama’s state parks. When he was sworn in Wednesday as a new ranger at Cheaha State Park, Prickett said the welcome he’s received there made him feel at home.
State Parks Director Greg Lein administered the oath to Prickett surrounded by park officials and employees outside the park’s Vista Cliffside restaurant. There visitors enjoy a panoramic view of the rolling north Alabama hills — another selling point for Prickett.
“You see that every day and it’s different every day, especially at sunset,” said Prickett, a native of Grant.
As a park ranger, Prickett will be a law enforcement officer. The park has not had someone employed in that status since the previous superintendent, Justin Howard, left for another job last year.
State parks superintendent Kelly Ezell said that Prickett — who is going to the Northeast Alabama Police Academy this month to become certified — is a great addition to the park.
“I think that Alex is the perfect person. He has just come in and been enthusiastic and done a great job up to this point and we’re excited for him to go off to the academy,” Ezell said.
According to Ezell, a recent rule change permits park superintendents to not have law enforcement certification. Ezell said that new Cheaha Park Superintendent Renee Raney is the first superintendent at Cheaha without law enforcement certification.
Raney said during the interim the park has been in safe hands.
“We have many partners for the safety and security of our park,” Raney said.
Raney said the U.S. Forest Service, Cleburne and Clay County sheriff’s offices and Alabama Law Enforcement Agency have assisted the park with its law enforcement needs.
Raney was complimentary about Prickett since he has been at the park.
“This is one of the most exciting days for Cheaha because Alex is a very talented and dedicated resource and I look forward to watching him succeed in this park and across the state,” Raney said.
Cheaha is the third state park where Prickett has been employed.
“I started at Cathedral Caverns in 2014, worked there for three years and moved to Rickwood Caverns which is in Warrior, Ala., just north of Birmingham, and I ended up here June 1 of this year,” Prickett said.
Prickett held a variety of jobs at those parks, including tour guide, maintenance and assistant manager.
“This park is beautiful,” Prickett said.
“I got here and the staff just welcomed me with open arms, they took me in like I’ve been here forever so that was great,” Prickett said.
“When I first got up here, Callie — the assistant superintendent — we went out to Pulpit Rock and I was hooked the first day. I said ‘This is now my home,’” Prickett said.