Fairfax County could be getting park rangers one day, but it won’t be this year.
With the police department’s staff stretched thin, the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) has proposed a new solution for addressing service calls in its system: a park ranger program.
But while the Board of Supervisors directed staff on May 2 to review options for law enforcement in the park system, the $1.1 million request didn’t make the cut for the upcoming fiscal year 2024 budget, which will take effect July 1.
Depending on what the review recommends, funding could come in future years.
“In the proposed guidance for the FY 24-25 budget, the Board of Supervisors instructed county staff to ‘initiate a review of options to expand the presence of law enforcement within our park system, including the proposed park ranger program, and return to the Board with recommendations,’” Ben Boxer, public information officer for FCPA, said.
Boxer said issues like graffiti and thefts from vehicles have been increasingly problematic for the park authority in recent years.
“Parks, park users and staff often experience prohibited activities such as graffiti and destruction of property, unauthorized use, trespassing, encroachment, theft from vehicles, animal/dog bites, drug and alcohol use, littering, etc,” Boxer said. “These issues have always been a problem in parks but with Park Authority staffing cuts over the years, this type of activity has been steadily increasing and has driven the need to request and fund police coverage during the past several years.”
The FCPA has requested $1.1 million for a pilot program, consisting of six park rangers and three chief park rangers, along with vehicles and supplies. Those rangers would patrol the parks and educate the community on park rules and regulations.
Boxer said the possible Park Ranger pilot program is based on similar programs in Arlington County and Prince William County.
“Park safety and security rangers have been shown to help minimize the degradation of parks and improve the community’s park experience and satisfaction,” Boxer said. “The role is different from that of traditional law enforcement but can significantly alleviate the pressure on police in responding to calls.”
Instead, the new budget focuses on providing tax relief and increasing county employee pay. The budget is scheduled for adoption on today (Tuesday).
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