Those of us who get perturbed when you see someone fail to clean up after their dog or litter in public parks might see some relief this year. The City of Dallas has reinstated its Park Rangers program, assigning six staff members to patrol its parks for added safety and to better enforce city laws.
“It’s all in an effort to support the Department’s mission by providing efficient and effective public safety, while fostering environmental stewardship,” Park and Recreation Director Willis Winters said in a statement.
The six rangers and one supervisor will replace the three maintenance workers who currently carry the heavy task of keeping all of the city’s green spaces free of garbage, homeless encampments and rule-breakers. The rangers would be certified in CPR and other life-saving skills in case they need to assist the public in a medical emergency, but largely they would be charged with enforcing the often-unenforced rules of the city, like public alcohol consumption, ensuring special events in the parks follow city code and the newly passed ban on smoking, which goes into effect March 1.
It will mark a return to how to city used to manage its parks, the Parks and Recreation Department points out. The city first hired “park police” back in 1894 in an attempt to keep its bucolic spaces from of scofflaws. By the 1980s, the city employed 80 rangers to patrol its 23 parks daily from 8 a.m.-midnight. Then, during a cost-saving measure in 1986, the city council voted to consolidate the rangers with the Dallas Police Department, effectively eliminating the role.
Most major cities in Texas have park rangers on staff — Austin has 24, while Houston has 37. The Parks and Recreation Department hope to find the funds needed to eventually add 10 bicycle patrol rangers as well as a citizen park patrol.
Last fall, we put the spotlight on our neighborhood’s trails, many of which run through city parks.