Columbia Parks and Recreation
Creating Community through People, Parks and Programs
First Park Ranger - 2004
Second Park Ranger - 2012
In the City of Columbia’s Fiscal Year 2004, the Parks and Recreation Department received approval to fund the Department’s first official Park Ranger. However, the history of the Park Ranger Program began just over 10 years earlier.
In 1993, the Department began an aggressive program of improving the quality of the athletic fields. A primary problem with keeping an excellent stand of turf was the multitude of unauthorized games and practices being held on the fields. The fields were literally being used to death. Working with all of the youth athletic associations, the Department began to prohibit practices and restricting the number of games on all athletic fields. Since most of the illegal use occurred in the evenings and weekends, enforcement of this policy became a critical component to its success. This prompted the first discussion of implementing a Park Ranger Program. The Department decided to phase in the Ranger Program by hiring temporary, part-time “Park Events Assistants.” The Park Events Assistants worked approximately 25-30 hours per week, primarily during the early evening weekday hours, and in the mornings and early afternoons on the weekends. They were scheduled during the summer and early fall. They enforced all park and recreation rules and regulations, concentrating primarily in and around Columbia’s athletic complexes. These positions were not POST certified and did not have law enforcement authority. They were primary the eyes and ears of the Department, and when illegal activities were observed, they notified the Columbia Police Department for the appropriate action. For the next 10 years, the Park Events Assistants played an important role in keeping watch on Columbia’s parks and facilities.
In 2002, the Department completed the Facilities Needs Update of the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan. Support for a full-time commissioned Park Ranger was voiced during master plan meetings and on-going neighborhood association meetings, including the Central City Neighborhood Associations, and especially within the Neighborhood Response Team.
In 2003, the Columbia Activity and Recreation Center (ARC) officially opened and was immediately successful. The ARC is at its busiest during the late fall and winter months when the temporary Park Events Assistants are not scheduled. It became apparent that there was a need for a full-time Park Ranger, both in the parks and at the ARC.
In August 2003, the Department requested funding for the Park Ranger. With the adoption of the City of Columbia’s FY-2004 Budget, funding for the Park Ranger position was approved. In January 2004, Rosanna Arens was hired to become Columbia’s first full-time, POST certified, Park Ranger.
Columbia Parks and Recreation continued operating with only one full-time ranger for eight years after the initiation of the program. Budget constraints during difficult economic times in FY 2008-2010 prohibited adding new FTE positions funded by the General Fund.
In Fiscal Year 2011 the City of Columbia conducted a citizen survey. The survey revealed citizens' perceptions of safety in the parks was an area that could be improved.
In Fiscal Year 2012 funds from the Park Sales Tax were budgeted for a second full-time ranger. Eric White retired from the Columbia Police Department to fill the second ranger position in February 2012.
"The Lone Ranger"
Columbia Missourian - 2/12/04