The story of the Greene County Parks and Trails Ranger Division begins with just three men, who already had full-time jobs with GCP&T, and a single uniform.
“One of us was a maintenance guy (Rick Bull), one of was a naturalist guy (John Humston) and I was the programs guy,” said former GCP&T staffer Ed Bice while discussing the recent 40-year anniversary of the division.
Bice said the three became inspired to look into training after Bice had an encounter with a large rowdy party at the Narrows Reserve, to which the Greene County Sheriff’s Office responded.
“I clearly remember a beer can almost hitting me,” he said. “One of the law enforcement officials asked me, wasn’t this a park site and our responsibility?”
After that, Bice said he pitched the idea of going for parks law enforcement training to then-GCP&T Director Ed Dressler. He said Dressler agreed and sent Bice, Bull and Humston to complete a ranger certification course offered through Cleveland MetroParks.
They completed the three, 10-day training periods and became the GCP&T’s first commissioned rangers in 1979. Because of their full-time jobs, Bice said that they could only patrol on weekends (with their one uniform).
“Basically between the three of us, we were in and around our areas and parks almost any time we were out,” Bice said.
Bice said that he gave up his commission with the ranger division after about three years but worked in programming for almost 30 years and has been involved with GCP&T in one capacity or another for 50 years. He said that his proudest accomplishments during the time he served with the rangers were helping to pull the ranger program together, developing original park rules and initiating the beginning guidelines of the operation.
Bice said the first team of full-time rangers to come on board included Bill Nickell, Brady Smith, Dale Steele and Chuck Frazier.
Smith currently serves as GCP&T Chief Ranger. With nearly 25 years in the ranger division, Smith said he started with GCP&T in 1989 as a volunteer and was hired on as a full-time naturalist in 1991.
“Working as a naturalist I was able to spend a good deal of time with our county’s rangers. By doing so, I realized it would be the perfect career for me,” Smith said.
Spending time with the original rangers, he said he learned much about the history of the department and the details of how hard they worked to pave a path for those who followed. Smith said that he enjoys the job because each day is so diverse.
“No two days are alike, one never knows what each day will bring,” he said.
He said that one of his most unique and memorable moments on the job was serving on a detail providing security for a presidential visit in September 2004.
“I was working a detail providing security for President George W. Bush while he campaigned in Greene County. Having the duty of standing with and protecting the President of the United States is a pretty awesome day at work. A day I’ll likely never forget.”
For those considering becoming a part of the GCP&T Ranger Division, Bice said that though a background in law enforcement is important, a background in natural resources is also important. He said that although the goal of the ranger division is to keep parkgoers safe, they always try to be educators first.
Contact this writer at EricaHarrah@woh.rr.com.
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