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Revisiting the rangers' role

March 24, 2011

The articles “Indulging a passion for open space” on March 16 and “Council picks new parks chief” on March 17 reminded me of how valuable our parks leadership and staff is, and how grateful I am for their dedication to enhancing the recreational amenities in our flatlands and foothills.

Deukmejian Wilderness Park, whose project managers include the brilliant John Pearson, is a true gem in the city's crown of open space, and the “passion” that describes his colleague, trails specialist Jeff Weinstein, promises more good things to come for us who cherish our chaparral canyons and vistas.

However, the articles also give rise to the issue of our continuing need for park rangers.

A few years ago, this city of 220,000 reduced our already-paltry quartet of rangers to two, then redefined job descriptions to “naturalists” who were no longer allowed to carry firearms, with park law enforcement duties relegated to our already-stressed police department.

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Skills unique to rangers, such as all-season law enforcement in rugged terrain at trailheads and on trails, and with elusive lawbreakers and wild animals in the mix, have languished. The city needs to revisit the viability and practicality of the ranger's role as it relates to maintaining park safety through law enforcement, as well as fostering respect for park habitat through education.

Sorry, but when one thinks of parks — national, state, or otherwise — one thinks of rangers. One thinks of men and women on foot, on horseback or in trucks, with varied skills, including safety and protection, guidance and inspiration, aid and assistance. Areas of expertise might vary, with specialties in biology, ornithology, geology, archeology, paleontology or history, and duties run the gamut from fireside stories to firearm skills. And, of course, overseeing park maintenance.

These are the qualities and responsibilities we're missing in Glendale parks, and not only do we need their role restored, we need more of them to carry it out.

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