Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Plan to hire park ranger in Vernon on hold

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
July 5, 2006

VERNON - A plan to formally establish a park ranger for the town's trail system is on hold.

On June 20 the Town Council was poised to approve the job description for a park ranger, a part-time town employee who would be in charge of keeping an eye on the town's extensive trail network and park property.

But concerns over adding a new town staff member prompted the council to put off the vote until more research could be done.

The council decision does not mean the parks and trails aren't patrolled.

At present, the town contracts with a person who has patrolled parkland for roughly 11 years, Parks and Recreation Director Bruce Dinnie said.

This person uses town equipment, including an all-terrain vehicle, Dinnie said.

The ranger periodically patrols town parks, enforcing regulations and assisting visitors, officials said.

As proposed, the non-union position would carry a $12-an-hour salary, which officials said is consistent with what is being paid now.

Although the town had hired an individual to serve as a ranger, former Town Administrator Laurence R. Shaffer said the council never got around to approving the job description.

As a result, the ranger's ability to issue infraction tickets could be compromised, said Shaffer, whose last day with the town was on Friday.

There were also concerns about insurance coverage, which prompted Shaffer to ask the council to approve a formal job description and make the ranger a town employee.

"The employee setup just ties it together a little tighter," Shaffer said. "It gives us more control over the situation. We want to make sure we've got a situation that the council is comfortable with."

In addition to concerns over adding a new staff member during a tumultuous budget season, Shaffer said the council also expressed interest in possibly putting the position out to bid.

Shaffer said he was not sure when the council would revisit the position, but added that he was trying to complete as much research as possible before his departure.

According to the official job description drafted by Shaffer, the ranger is primarily responsible for public safety and customer service in the park system.

Among the duties assigned to the ranger are providing directions and trail maps to visitors, providing bicycle repairs and first aid when necessary, and dealing with all visitors, traffic, and crowd control issues.

The ranger also patrols assigned areas during all times of the day, including night.

Maintenance, such as clearing debris from trails and parks, is also a part of the ranger's duties.

The ranger is expected to be well-versed in the characteristics of the Vernon park's system, as well as town ordinances and related laws.

The position also requires that a person has knowledge of first aid skills, including CPR training, and has the ability to deal with the public effectively while avoiding confrontations with disgruntled visitors.

©Journal Inquirer 2006