Stark County Park Board's Opposition to Self-Defense Extends Even to Rangers

While not directly a Concealed Carry Reform issue, an OFCC supporter has requested that we bring attention to the plight of Stark County Park Rangers, who in the commission of their duties have been prevented from carrying a sidearm for some ten years.

Click here to visit Citizens for Park Safety's website.

If you are a Stark County resident, or live anywhere near Canton, you can help.

The Stark County Park District began enforcing an OPEN(!) carry ban on its own Park Rangers beginning in the early 1990's. The Park Rangers, who have full law enforcement arrest authority, are not permitted to carry a sidearm, although they are given a bulletproof vest provided by the Park Board. In the course of performing their duties, the Rangers confront hunters, alcohol, drugs, and arrest on warrants.

The Rangers themselves want their in-the-line-of-duty carry privileges restored, and the surrounding community is viewed as supportive of a reinstatement. But a portion of the Park Board will not arm them, and give no good reason for not arming them.

The next Stark County Park Board meeting, open to the public, is Feb. 5th at 2 p.m. at Sippo Lake Clubhouse in Canton, Ohio.

Arming park rangers to be considered
The Review.

Concerned Citizens for Park Safety will head to the Stark Park Board meeting Friday afternoon to press for a reversal of the board's policy on arming park rangers.

Park Director Robert Fonte says he has never heard of the organization. Fonte said recently the Park District had responded to a request for information but that request for documents had come from an individual, not a group.

The board's policy in not arming its park rangers, Fonte said, has been in effect since the early 1990's. Prior to that, Stark park rangers had carried firearms. We took away the guns after having significant problems with staffers.

The board, Fonte added, reinforced that policy after reviewing a 2001 analysis of arming Stark Park District rangers conducted by a methods of policy analysis class at the University of Akron.

After reviewing that information the board decided to keep following what Fonte called the Franklin County model.

That model, Fonte explained, is unarmed park rangers with the backing of armed local law enforcement when needed.

Fonte added that the board has not met since Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson announced large-scale layoffs in his office in response to budget cuts.

Fonte said he is not sure how those layoffs might affect the response the park rangers count on in dealing with situations in the county park system, in particular in the Upper Deer Creek and Walborn Reservoir recreational areas in Lexington Township.

Documents the Concerned Citizens for Park Safety have put together to try and sway the park board to change their firearms policy suggest that police is a major breech in the safety and welfare of citizens.

The group points out the Park District's 11 full- and part-time rangers have competed the Basic Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy, the same training required of armed police officers.

Among the documents the group amassed is a copy of the University of Akron study, a study that recommended arming the park rangers as the most reasonable option in providing safety to both the rangers and park visitors.

The group also reports that of Ohio''s other park districts in urban areas only Stark and Franklin park districts do not have armed park rangers. Ohio State park rangers are also armed.

The statistics collected by the Concerned Citizens also demonstrated that park rangers were involved in 43 incidents involving weapons, 62 involving drugs or alcohol, 40 crimes against persons and 16 arrests that involved outstanding warrants.

Park rangers requested backup 61 times from an armed police officer to assist in correcting a situation.

In addition to the general welfare of park visitors the group also suggested that in this age of Homeland Security the park rangers have a role to play.

They point out that the Walborn and Upper Deer Creek recreational areas contain the source of Alliance''s raw water supply, an area the federal government has listed as a possible terrorist target.

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