Pittsburgh hopes to have park rangers patrolling Riverview Park in the North Side next year as the city and Allegheny County expand their first-year programs.
Pittsburgh and the county started ranger programs this summer in an effort to provide security and an “extra sense of wonderment,” as Mayor Bill Peduto has said.
“The park rangers have done a great job of bringing customer service to our public parks,” Peduto said Friday, adding that he wants to expand the program next year.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said crowds of people talked with rangers at events this summer. He was impressed by the rangers’ knowledge and enthusiasm for helping park visitors learn about the parks.
“You could tell that these are people that love nature,” Fitzgerald said.
City and county rangers serve different purposes in their respective parks. County rangers focused on offering hikes and educational programs. The county’s head ranger, Braden Meiter, said hikes to waterfalls in South Park and Settlers Cabin Park and a program exploring aquatic life in North Park have been the most successful.
Nearly 1,120 people attended the 69 programs county rangers organized this summer, Meiter said. The rangers set up a table of animal pelts and skulls one day near the South Park wave pool and had 160 people, mostly kids, stop by.
Amy Giammattei, a former ranger at New River Gorge National Park and Gauley River National Recreation Area, worked with the county rangers this summer to repair trails in Hartwood Acres.
“They were just great,” Giammattei, 55, of Indiana Township said. “You cannot help but run into them and walk away with a smile.”
The city’s rangers provided directions and assistance to people in Schenley Park but focused on security and maintaining order. In late June, the rangers chased down a group of dirt bikers illegally riding on park trails.
The number of part-time rangers in Schenley Park will drop during the fall and winter, Griffin said. But when spring arrives, Griffin hopes to have converted a vacant naturalist supervisor position into a full-time ranger and place him or her in Riverview Park. The program will expand to Highland and Frick parks next, Griffin said.
Griffin expected to spend less than $250,000 on rangers this year. The county budgeted $400,000 to hire four full-time rangers and used a $410,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to fund rangers from the Student Conservation Association. The county has two full-time rangers on staff but intends to hire two more, Meiter said.
Fitzgerald said he expects to budget about the same for rangers next year and is confident foundations will continue their support.