An offer to work outdoors in a new city drew Gergely Gyorgyi-Ambro from his office job in Budapest to Pittsburgh, where he recently joined a group of rangers to be stationed in Allegheny County parks beginning this summer.
“I was looking for something new, and I’m a real big outdoor enthusiast,” said Mr. Gyorgyi-Ambro, who was born in Montana but moved to Hungary at age 4. “I’m really excited to be here.”
City and county officials unveiled their new park ranger programs at a joint news conference Thursday, where they also introduced the force and outlined their duties. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the Allegheny County Park Ranger Corps will patrol across the county’s nine parks, reinforce park rules and provide visitor information.
“They’re going to be the ambassadors to welcome people to our parks,” said Mr. Fitzgerald, noting that the rangers are unarmed and do not have arrest powers.
When exploring the program last year, Mr. Fitzgerald said county police officers currently patrolling the parks could be better used by being reassigned to areas experiencing crime. In January, county officials said they expected a continued police presence in the parks as they roll out the plan.
Richard Usner, a county police detective and president of the Allegheny County Police Association, said Thursday that the union hasn’t been notified of any changes in staffing levels for officers patrolling the county parks.
“I’m sure we’re probably going to scale back” the number of officers in the parks, he said. “But right now, it’s still status quo.”
A $400,000 line item in the 2015 county budget funded the county’s ranger supervisor and three senior ranger positions. The county has hired two senior rangers and plans to fill the third, which remains posted, county spokeswoman Amie Downs said.
A $410,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation paid for 12 full-time seasonal county park rangers through the Washington, D.C.-based Student Conservation Association. A $92,000 Connections grant from the Regional Asset District went toward joint training for the county’s ranger corps and the nine rangers assigned to Schenley Park in Oakland through Pittsburgh’s Citiparks department.
The programs attracted applicants from across the country and beyond. County senior ranger Thomas Stuhr, 35, moved here from San Diego. Alex Troutman, 24, formerly of Austell, Ga., had never visited Pittsburgh before landing the job through the Student Conservation Association. Braden Meiter, 32, was working in eastern Pennsylvania before accepting the position as the county’s head ranger.