After nearly 20 years of staff wearing black pants and a red polo shirt with the ironed-on “Park Watch” written across the back in white, Mecklenburg County’s Park and Recreation Department has approved a new name and uniform.
Now driving in County vehicles, en route to a neighborhood park, are the newly classified, Park Rangers. The change became effective on Feb. 21, 2013. The idea is a rehashing of sorts. The Park Ranger was prevalent in the 90s before the merger of the County and the City park systems.
The new uniform for Park Rangers is a spruce green polo, coyote brown tactical pro pants, a tan ball cap, black operator belt and black boots.
The recent change came to fruition for a couple of reasons: To give the public a look that is easily identifiable, and to give the staff a name that projects authority. Park officials say the use of “Park Watch” often lead the public to mistake County staff for volunteers. The name change adds clarity to a position with a focal point of being seen by the public.
A permanent “unsworn” tag came with the change for all 27 of the former Park Watch employees. Its purpose is to distinguish a difference between Mecklenburg County Park Rangers and North Carolina State Park Rangers. N.C. State Park Rangers carry 200 hours of training in task such as: search and rescue, wildfire suppression, and emergency medical techniques; and four months of law enforcement basic training.
The duties of an unsworn Park Ranger for Mecklenburg County and the former Park Watch Coordinator position classification are similar:
- close parks,
- monitor parks and parking lots,
- enforce rules and regulations,
- remove trash as needed,
- maintain traffic control inside parks,
- file monthly reports,
- secure buildings and provide visibility,
- respond to inquiries,
- and assist park visitors.
Now the Park Rangers will not be just a body within the parks. Superintendent Greg Clemmer has made plans for CPR, First Responder, Self Defense and First Aid training to be “put in play” within the next six months.
The Park Rangers will not have to worry about any added duties being placed upon them.
“We always ask people to do more than they are hired to, but no, the name change is simply that, said Park and Recreation Department Director Jim Garges. The duties and responsibilities are the same. There’s no change or proposed change to that.”
The seven-month process was headed by Clemmer and North Regional Manager Chris Hunter acting as a liaison. Also involved was a committee of Rangers that included Todd Lambdin, Jeffrey Presson, Luther Williams, Shawn Irish and Milton Bowen. The final cost of the change came close to $10,000, but it has proven to be worth the cost and time invested amongst the crew, at least from Park Ranger Stephen Clark’s view.
“I think the name change is good,” Clark said. “It’s going to give a better image to the public about what we do and who we are. And the image change is food for the department (Park and Recreation) internally, because it’s got people more excited about coming to work and looking more uniform-ready to do their job.”