Learn the Inner Workings of Cleburne and Dinosaur Valley State Parks
AUSTIN – If you’ve ever wanted to be a park ranger or simply wondered about the inner workings of a Texas state park, then consider enrolling in the Citizen’s Park Ranger Academy offered this spring in North Texas by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Students will meet from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday from April 4 through April 25. But unlike the inaugural academy held at Dinosaur Valley State Park in 2013, enrollees this April will split their time between Dinosaur Valley and Cleburne state parks. Students must be at least 15 years old to attend without a parent and be prepared to engage in physically demanding activities, such as lifting, hiking and crawling.
Results from the first academy show that 15 individuals were trained, leading to seven participants volunteering at Dinosaur Valley, seven applying for TPWD jobs and two being hired. Tony Smith, 29, is one of the new hires. He had worked as an intern and seasonal clerk at Dinosaur Valley and jumped at the chance two years ago to enroll in the first academy to learn more about park operations and potential TPWD career opportunities.
“I had always had an interest in parks, so I figured the academy would provide more opportunity to learn about park operations,” Smith says. “We learned about rules and regulations, law enforcement and did a different hands-on field activity each week, such as a mock search-and-rescue in the park and how to clean out the dinosaur tracks,” Smith says.
Smith discovered that his master’s degree in history from Tarleton State University was a good fit for working at one of the state’s historic sites or parks with a strong historical component and ultimately landed an assistant office manager’s job at Bastrop State Park, where he assists with registration, collects fees and helps answer questions for park visitors.
This year’s Citizen’s Park Ranger Academy features several new elements, according to program director Robert Enckhausen, a park police officer and superintendent of Dinosaur Valley State Park. In addition to learning about such topics as wildland firefighting, park interpretation, search and rescue and law enforcement, he says enrollees will alternate between Cleburne and Dinosaur Valley for hands-on participation in expanded field operations with large equipment usage, an archeological session and a Dutch oven cookoff. And, for the first time, youngsters 13 to 15 years of age may attend with a parent.
All activities will be led by park staff and there is no cost to attend the academy. Slots are limited and registration should be completed by March 1.
To learn more about the Citizen’s Park Ranger Academy and to enroll, contact Dinosaur Valley’s Enckhausen at (254) 897-4588 or via e-mail: [email protected].