Whether you’re driving through the windswept hills near Lyman Lake, hiking amidst the desert beauty on Picacho Peak or boating on the shimmering waters of Lake Havasu, in each of the 27 Arizona State Parks you will recognize the familiar sight of a Park Ranger.
For most of us, we rarely think about the work these men and women perform in the course of a day. For the most part, the primary duties and responsibilities for Arizona State Park rangers consist of park maintenance and customer service, which represents the largest portion of the rangers’ activities at every park.
However, differences exist between the various State Parks. Visitors may see rangers, investigate trespassers or Operating Under the Influence (OUI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) incidents, enforce laws and regulations, participate in search and rescue operations, water and waster management system operation and certification, and maintain museum quality collections and much, much more.
At San Rafael Ranch State Natural Area, the rangers work day includes cleaning up after trespassers on the property, which can mean anything from pulling stolen vehicles out of the river to repairing the border fence, located on the edge of the park property. In addition, the San Rafael Ranch rangers put on some very unusual hats during the week when their duties may involve riding horseback out into the fields to gather their neighbor’s cattle as they wander in through broken fencing to repairing the park’s windmills that they depend on for water. For State Park rangers, repairing property is a regular function of any day.
“All of us are skilled in various areas of construction because we do most of the restoration on this old house and have also restored two cowboy houses on the property,” said Lee Eseman, park manager at San Rafael Ranch State Natural Area. While working as a cowhand is a function unique to San Rafael Ranch rangers, the investigating and cleaning up after trespassers is in part a function of the law enforcement many duties rangers perform.
At present, 50 Arizona State Park Rangers completed the Peace Officer Academy to become Certified Law Enforcement Officers. By the end of the fiscal year, Arizona State Park expects 56 rangers to certify as Peace Officers. These Law Enforcement Rangers enforce state laws and regulations at State Parks.
Generally, law enforcement certification is not a requirement for park rangers. However those rangers that are required to be certified as Law Enforcement Rangers participate in on-going training such as advanced officer training, proficiency requirements and other mandatory training to keep current with changing statutory requirements, patrol procedures as well as specialty training to meet today’s ever changing challenges.
Arizona State Park maintains cooperative agreements with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. As a part of these agreements, state park rangers assist the local community (as a part of the first responders team) as happened recently during the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire. After putting on the police officer’s hats, rangers’ first priority, as always, was the protection of visitors, the park resources and other staff. But after securing the park site, they provided support to the agencies managing the Rodeo-Chedeski emergency by taking responsibility for crowd control and providing security assistance. Although providing law enforcement services is atypical of most rangers, all State Park ranger positions require certification in CPR and basic first aid training, and some parks have Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs).
At Picacho Peak State Park, Park Manager Rob Young spends considerable time interpreting the historical background of the park, as well as other historical events of the area, even though it now operates primarily as a recreational park.
“The increase in hiking has also steadily increased our involvement in search and rescue operations, which range from simple searches for hikers who inadvertently get onto the wrong trail to overnight searches for people lost on the mountain,” said Young. “The rescue operations typically can range from nothing more serious than an ankle injury to worst case situations involving recoveries.”
To provide for public safety, rangers participate in yearly CPR refresher courses and basic first aid updates, which they receive from first aid certified park rangers. In the past, rangers/instructors developed the curriculum, and went from park to park providing the necessary training. Sometimes, the exact emphasis of the course changed to meet the specific needs of each setting.
Art Austin, Park Manager at Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park reported that “First Responders” in their respective parks performed 85 percent of the medical rescues statewide, while only 15 percent of the rescues were performed by Ranger EMTs, or EMTs from outside the park (local EMS responders, fire or ambulance etc). On the lakes and rivers, Park Rangers responsible for law enforcement, often acting as the initial responders in emergency rescues, work in cooperation with other local emergency service agencies by responding to requests for assistance during emergencies.
In the river parks, you have probably seen park ranges on the water stopping boaters to make routine boating safety checks.
Brian Pendley, park manager at Lake Havasu State Park said, “The river parks share similar duties and responsibilities with our primary responsibility being to provide recreation and resource protection to insure visitors a safe environment to recreate in.” At Lake Havasu State Park, this means rangers wear a captain’s hat as part of their responsibilities include the maintenance of the navigational buoys and lighting on the Arizona side of the lake.
Pendley added, “The NavAid program is a very important responsibility due to the potential high liability involved. We are the primary agency bearing this responsibility on the lake.”
At Cattail Cove State Park, park manager Gary Peaslee said “Rangers perform many of the same responsibilities as at Lake Havasu State Park, such as maintaining boat ramps for fishing, camping sites, the day use area for local people, and providing public safety information and training through pleasure craft classes for the public” with a few differences.
Cattail Cove rangers maintain the parks water/wastewater plant that must be monitored and tested daily by a certified state operator. In addition, the park manages 30 campsites reachable only by boat, and maintains the Navigational Aides on the Southern end of Lake Havasu, which they check on a regular basis, which includes checking and testing range lights, solar panels, batteries and the proper placement of 60 buoys. The varieties of hats worn by park rangers seem astounding.
Two Park Ranger II positions are currently open at Lyman Lake State Park 11 miles south of St. Johns on Highway 191.
Submit a detailed resume with completed Supplement 166 (available on-line at www.azstateparks.com or by calling 602-542-6900) to: AZ State Parks Human Resources, Attn: Diana Lashbrook, 1300 W. Washington, 2nd Floor, Phoenix, AZ 85007; 602-542-6900; FAX: 602-364-0182; e-mail: dlashbrook @pr.state.az.us
To find out about jobs at state parks go to azstateparks.com.
(Julie Phillipps is a public information officer for the Arizona State Parks Department. Her role is to provide a variety of information to the public about all the programs, parks and grants offered by the State Parks department.)