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First class of Tempe's renewed park ranger program starts field training

The city previously had a park ranger program, but it stopped in 2008 after deep budget cuts
Posted at 7:50 AM, Dec 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-07 09:56:05-05

Park rangers officially launched in Tempe's parks and preserves this week, with the goal of providing ambassadorship, resources, and additional safety to parks and patrons.

Tempe City Council approved the new program earlier this year for 17 positions.

The city previously had a park ranger program, but it stopped in 2008 after deep budget cuts from the recession. The topic was brought back up again after residents gave their input in surveys to the city on safety at the parks.

Rangers will work from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. in the city's various neighborhoods, community and regional parks, the parks surrounding Tempe Town Lake, and the city's preserves.

Tempe has more than 50 public parks.

Some people told ABC15 they typically don't visit the parks when it's dark, though, because they don't feel safe.

"I won't come here at night because it's just a little sketchy," said Scottsdale resident Taylor Houghton, who was visiting Tempe Beach Park with her mom this week for a morning walk. "I think it would be nice to have extra safety, especially if I wanted to come on, like, a night walk with my mom."

The city said its park rangers will provide helpful resources and information, as well as education about park rules.

They will not carry firearms, but they will have the ability to issue city citations, though their focus will be on education first, according to the city.

"There's dealing with general trash and some cleanup some maintenance issues, the unhoused community can be, you know, an issue sometimes in the parks," said Tempe Supervisory Park Ranger Michael Spykes. "We're there to offer resources and, you know, we're not just here to move people out of the park system, we're here to offer resources and get people assistance and support they need so they're not in that situation and it's a win-win for everybody."

Spykes' first class of rangers finished up a five-week academy last month and is now out in the field for the next few months for more training.

They're expected to be on solo patrol sometime next year.

"They're learning the parks system, they're learning where the parks are located, they're learning and they're meeting the people who are in the parks and just introducing themselves," said Spykes. "It's a fantastic diverse group of varying experiences and age levels and ethnicities and just backgrounds. We have former security officers and retired military and former park rangers from other jurisdictions and folks, who, this is brand new to them."

Park ranger positions are now open through the city of Tempe website.