Park-Ranger

If you have ridden in Griffith Park you may have seen a group of riders with Park Ranger identifications on their saddle pads or outfits. We met up with LA Park Ranger Heidi Paul for some questions and answers.

When was the program founded?
The current program was launched in 2008 with two rangers and two horses.

How is the program funded?
We began with a generous private donation through the L.A. Parks Foundation. We are now funded through the Department of Recreation and Parks, but can receive additional funding through the Parks Foundation if it’s a specified donation for the Mounted Unit.

How many horses do you have in the program?
There are five city-owned horses and two volunteer owned horses we can use.

Do you have any volunteer opportunities?
Yes. We look for experienced riders with a horse capable of two- to three-hour rides in varied terrain, with minimal spook and good manners. Currently we have four active volunteers and a wait list.

Can you write violation or citation tickets?
Security officers can write parking citations only. Rangers can ticket for numerous violations.

How many times do you go out on patrol rides?
We go out nearly every day and try to cover as many of the city parks as we can.

If you are on a patrol ride, what are your duties?
Maintaining trail safety, a lot of counseling on the park ordinances, such as keeping dogs on leash, no smoking, etc., and assisting the pubic. Recently, we rescued hikers stranded on a steep hillside near the Observatory. We also do park dedications and public events.

If you are on a patrol ride, how do you identify yourselves as park rangers?
Our hats and uniforms give us away! Plus, we have decals on our equipment and the officers wear badges.

Are the rangers actually sworn law enforcement?
Rangers are sworn peace officers.

What training is involved in becoming a park ranger?
It’s a two year process involving, among other things, an extensive background check, and first aid, fire, and law enforcement training.

What if park rangers don’t have riding experience?
We do on-the-job training.

What kind of training do you do with your horses?
Training is specific to a horse’s needs, with lots of trail time, exposure to situations, and desensitization.

Do the horses need to pass a specific park ranger horse certification or test?
No, but it’s a plus when we go to purchase them. Some of our horses have passed the sheriff or LAPD mounted process. Others just have a lot of varied experiences. Most importantly, they all have a good mind and work ethic.

What should a rider do to make a complaint about being harassed on a trail?
You should have a description of the offender with the place and time it occurred. Call Ranger dispatch at 323-664-6661 as soon as possible. Carry your cell phone and get a picture if you can. Put the dispatch number on speed dial.

What kind of information is important in making a complaint?
Location, location, location! Study a park map and learn the actual names of the trails and roads, and know your compass directions. Find the nearest fire hydrant on a trail, and give dispatch the two sets of numbers on it. This will help pinpoint your location in the hills. If there’s no hydrant or sign, describe the area such as “trail between south end of Autry and Golf Course,” or “trail between Mineral Wells and recycling area.” Learn the tunnel numbers and road names. Give a clear description of cars, people, dogs etc., involved. A “large shorthair grey and white dog with a red collar” is more detailed than, “It could’ve been a pit bull and it’s off leash.”

Are there certain things better handled by LAPD rather than the rangers? If so, what?
All incidents should be reported immediately to dispatch who will contact LAPD. Rangers are first responders and have a better idea of park locations than police. They can assess the situation and call the appropriate responder (LAPD, fire, or ambulance) during your call.

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