Support builds for more full-time rangers 

Only six part-time park rangers monitor The City’s parks and recreation centers, leaving weekday shifts empty and rangers working without support.

The rangers, who work for the Recreation and Park Department, monitor public parks, landmarks such as Coit Tower, and sports facilities such as tennis courts and pools. With more than 200 facilities and 3,400 acres in the department’s jurisdiction, the rangers open and close facilities, appear at and monitor events on park grounds, assist police and respond to burglar alarms, among other things.

The rangers also hand out citations for offenses such as drug use, overnight camping, parking violations, off-leash dogs and vending without a permit. In 2006, there were 2,000 parking citations and 150 other citations given by rangers.

Major complaints at city parks are about graffiti, damage to park property and litter, according to Parkscan, a Neighborhood Parks Council Web site that allows city residents to register their complaints. Park advocates say such damage could be avoided with the presence of more full-time rangers.

Because there are only six rangers, there is only one ranger on duty at a time and the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift, Monday through Friday, is not staffed. Proposed changes to staffing are being floated, with discussions surrounding making the rangers full-time or hiring additional rangers.

"There are two different things going on in parks — lots of destruction, like graffiti, and security issues. There needs to be a presence in the park," said Kathy Howard, a member of the SF paRC organization that has been advocating changes to the park-ranger program. She said she is glad the commission is addressingthe problems.

Eugene Hsin, president and co-founder of the Park Rangers Association and a park ranger, said he visits up to 30 facilities a day and that an increase in manpower would help him better serve the public — and feel safer.

"I’m concerned because when I’m working I have no backup, unless I call SFPD. One of my co-workers was shot at once in Golden Gate Park. If we can get full-time status and become a minimum of 12 members, we can make a difference," Hsin said.

Rose Marie Dennis, spokeswoman for the Recreation and Park Department, said the proposal was not based on any kind of urgency, but more as a general improvement by the department to ensure public safety and protection of the parks.

Andrea O’Leary, a parks advocate, said one of her biggest issues with lack of coverage at the parks is unleashed dogs. She said more rangers would be able to cite the dog owners with a $23 parks code violation ticket and improve conditions, but simply making the rangers fulltime won’t be enough to keep track of those breaking leash laws.

"This is an extremely big problem. A lot of these places are trashed; they need more rangers, full-time won’t be enough in order to secure our parks and keep them safe, stop them from being vandalized and enforce park codes," Andrea O’Leary, a parks advocate, said.

The issue will be up for discussion at the Recreation and Park Commission on Jan. 31.

E-mail Eleni Economides at eeconomides@examiner.com.

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