Many of the rangers in the Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) are familiar faces to CAMN members who have assisted in restoration and research projects on Austin’s public lands. The rangers have led projects and shared their extensive knowledge with us but what else do they do, you may wonder.
Casey Carter, PARD Park Ranger, presented at our chapter meeting on October 20. Those uniformed officials you see as you hike the Greenbelt or walk through Zilker Park have three main divisions: Interpretation, Trailside, and Conservation.
The Interpretation Rangers are headquartered at the Zilker Caretaker’s cottage adjacent to Barton Springs. They facilitate educational programs with the public, including the Bark Ranger program (for dogs) and Coffee with a Ranger on Saturday mornings (for humans).
The Trailside Rangers rotate through the more than 300 parks throughout the City of Austin. They take advantage of spontaneous teachable moments (like a tarantula on the trail, or a bicycle in a preserve) to help citizens understand how their actions can impact the natural world in positive and negative ways.
Conservation Rangers are based out of the Zilker Clubhouse, and spend much of their time working on trail maintenance, conducting controlled burns, and working with volunteers (like CAMN members) to remove invasive plants from natural areas. These Rangers will be assisting us next spring when the signage for Zilker Preserve is ready to be installed!
PARD Rangers are all committed to upholding park and preserve rules and regulations through positive reinforcement (such as conversations and education), rather than law enforcement. Although they can issue parking tickets, they do not issue any other citations. There is a Parks Unit of APD officers that work with the Rangers if necessary.
In total, there are 20 rangers across the three divisions that work every day to keep citizens safe and informed. They enjoy sharing the intricacies and surprises of nature with anyone they find, much like Master Naturalists! In fact, two members of the Class of 2020 are Rangers, and we look forward to learning from them about they work they do in our city.
By Emily Hansen, CAMN Board President, Class of 2018