Magazine article Parks & Recreation

In Training: OC Ranger Academy Trains County Park Rangers

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

In Training: OC Ranger Academy Trains County Park Rangers

Article excerpt

When many people think of Orange County, California, they picture surfers, sandy beaches, and year-round sun. But the Southern California county of 3 million residents is also filled with rolling canyons, scenic vistas, a hardy trail system, and nearly 60,000 acres of regional parks and open space.

With so much land to watch over, OC Parks, which manages parks for the County of Orange, needs top-quality and well trained park rangers to keep the 12 million annual visitors happy, safe, and satisfied. Yet no comprehensive training programs existed anywhere in the United States to teach county park rangers, who are peace officers but do not carry firearms, the unique skills they need.

So OC Parks created one.

"Rangers serve as ambassadors for the parks. They help children understand and appreciate the natural world around them. They guide visitors to sights they've never seen before or let them see those sights in a brand new way," says OC Parks Director Mark Denny. "This is why our new rangers need the best possible training designed specifically for their job."

In 2010, OC Parks partnered with a local community college, Santa Ana College, to create the OC Parks Ranger Academy--the only academy in the United States specific to the role of unarmed county and regional park rangers. In the past, OC Parks had relied on local law enforcement academies to help train recruits. This only provided some of the needed training and didn't let the OC Parks fully guide its curriculum.

The academy, now in its third year, still covers basic law consistent with P.O.S.T. standards enforcement but also conservation, preservation, and education about the natural world. Training at the OC Parks Ranger Academy includes customer service, presentation skills, natural resource management, emergency response, first aid, CPR, AED, off highway vehicle operations, Laws of Arrest, basic fire suppression, and more.

Instructors include trainers from OC Parks, Santa Ana College, the National Association of Interpreters, and other contractors. The overall cost to the county for the program each year totals just under $100,000. Santa Ana College spends about an additional $10,000.

Training is rigorous and standards are high in the OC Parks Academy. The academy consists of approximately 260 hours of instruction in a moderate-stress environment. College credit is provided and tests and quizzes are given during the academy. …

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