Petaluma’s Off Road Ranger

Why did you relocate to Petaluma?

“My wife was raised in Petaluma and comes from a big family. My kids have 43 cousins in town.”?Find out more about local parks, and about becoming a member, at

When asked about the oddest thing he’s learned during his 16 years as a Ranger with Sonoma County Regional Parks (SCRP), Brandon Bredo wastes no time in answering.

“That’s easy,” he says. “Sick elephant seals have terrible, terrible breath.”

As Brandon tells it, when a seal was once stranded on Doran Beach, he was the one tasked with keeping watch until the Marine Mammal Rescue people arrived.

“They learned later,” he recalls, “that the poor creature had swallowed somebody’s sock!”

Brandon started out with SCRP as a Ranger Trainee at Doran Regional Park, then moved up through the ranks until becoming Supervising Ranger for all the parks in the South County/Mountain Valley District. The district includes Petaluma’s Helen Putnam Park on Chileno Valley Road, and Tolay Lake Regional Park on Cannon Lane. Currently celebrating its 50th year, SCRP includes 56 distinctive park settings separated into three Ranger divisions, covering over 12,000 acres.

“Sonoma County Park Rangers are generalists,” Brandon explains, “with specific training as EMTs, law enforcement officers, customer service providers and natural resource managers. We enjoy working with our department’s maintenance workers, community engagement programs staff, and partnership agencies on volunteer projects, invasive plant removal, and trail maintenance. And when needed, we serve as incident commanders with other public safety and law enforcement agencies.”

Brandon, who says he loves all aspects of his job, smiles as he recalls how students react to his uniform, and the distinctive Ranger hat he wears whenever going into classrooms to read Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” on Earth Day.

Notes Brandon, “For kids ... in fact for people of all ages ... the hat means I’m friendly. Everyone gets nostalgic about Smokey the Bear.”

The most fun he’s ever had as a ranger, he says, was taking his family to the Azalea Creek campground in Hood Mountain Regional Park & Open Space Preserve.

“We had just improved the backpacking area, and I wanted to ‘walk the talk,’ so my family of four and some close friends went on their first overnight with a tent,” he says. “I did most of the heavy lifting, with the kids just hauling their clothes and sleeping bags. I watched my 13-year-old daughter and her friend work together, and have fun setting up their tent with no instructions required from the professional ranger. My six-year-old son took a little more time to unfold into the ‘unplugged’ change in routine. It was sort of like watching the cicadas molting in the forest.”

An avowed naturalist, Brandon documents his finds online including wildflowers, like the twining snake-lily, tidytips, mules ears, and monkey flowers he just spotted around Helen Putnam Park a few days ago.

But wildlife, he warns, is not always that benign.

“One big surprise was the brown bear photographed by the motion-sensitive cameras installed around the same Azalea Creek campground I took my family to,” he says. Ever diligent, Ranger Bredo adds, “We plan to install bear-proof food storage lockers and garbage cans at that site to advocate for wildlife and keep them wild.”

Brandon becomes animated talking about recent discoveries at Tolay Lake Regional Park.

“Whenever historical artifacts are uncovered,” he explains, “we provide archeological interface with local colleges, universities and the Tribe.”

In this case, that would be the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

“Some of the culturally modified ‘charm stones’ and arrowheads discovered [around Tolay Lake] are from as far away as The Pacific Northwest, the Sierra Nevada and Mexico,” Brandon says. “This proves how this shallow, freshwater lake has served as an important Native American gathering place for centuries. As the park’s Supervising Ranger, I’m proud to deal directly with the Sacred Site Protection Committee, and have the Tribe on speed dial. It’s my Indiana Jones part of the job.”

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Why did you relocate to Petaluma?

“My wife was raised in Petaluma and comes from a big family. My kids have 43 cousins in town.”?Find out more about local parks, and about becoming a member, at

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