The first Billings park rangers are so dedicated to watching over city parks that they have patrolled through the winter, except for the snowiest, iciest days.
Now that the pilot project that started last fall has proven successful, Billings Parks and Recreation Department is launching a bigger program for spring and summer.
Volunteer coordinator Chris Waite is looking for more volunteers who are willing to help keep an eye on their city parks.
“With the 12 volunteers in the pilot project, we figured out a lot of the nuts and bolts of communication,” Waite said. City park rangers don’t get guns or cool hats, but they have blue shirts and badges. They patrol in pairs in a park they have requested to serve and that they have been trained to serve. They relay problems and concerns to Waite via cell phone or email.
So far, volunteers have patrolled Phipps and Swords parks. Graffiti has been the most frequent report. Volunteer park rangers also were the first to spot trees that toppled in a January wind storm.
The volunteers are men and women, ranging in age from college students to retirees. Most of the dozen pilot volunteers plan to continue, except those who won’t be in Billings this summer.
The Park Department is seeking volunteers to patrol North Park, South Park, Pioneer Park and Castle Rock Park. Individuals who want to patrol other parks should contact Waite and their requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Volunteers must be at least 18 and must agree to a criminal background check. They will be asked to commit to patrolling about two hours a week through the summer.
“The ideal candidates are people who are walking in the parks or biking the parks and know the park,” Waite said. “It’s about observing and reporting to us.”
If the long, snowy winter has infected you with spring fever, the Billings Parks Department may have a remedy. Volunteer now to be a city park ranger. These patrols will be great motivation to get outside regularly this spring and summer. Check the box below to see how to help.