NewsLocal News


Bakersfield's City Park Rangers are making a difference across communities

The City of Bakersfield's Park Ranger Program, started in 2022, has 17 rangers who keep Bakersfield's 61 public parks safe while helping people in need.
Bakersfield City Park Ranger Program (file)
Posted at 7:54 PM, Feb 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-13 23:03:48-05

The City of Bakersfield's Park Ranger Program began in September 2022. The park ranger program employs 17 individuals who handle everything from settling disputes over double bookings at a pavilion to ensuring residents of all ages prosper while visiting the city’s 61 parks.

“We want to bring back families to the parks,” said City of Bakersfield Park Ranger Gloria Osornia. “Make it safe to have your kids and barbecues and not have to worry about it being a mess.”

While the rangers' daily duties include keeping the city’s natural landscapes clean and maintaining public structures, there’s another key piece to their work.

“We're just a small part of addressing the homelessness,” said City of Bakersfield Park Ranger Ester McRoberts.

“So it’s been our approach with these individuals to be very open,” said City of Bakersfield Park Ranger Supervisor Jeff Martin. “And just to be able to speak to them like they’re anybody else.”

Rangers are trained to offer resources and a chance for positive change when it comes to the homeless community.

Late last year, McRoberts and Osornio say they reunited a man with his family.

“He had been missing for three months,” said McRoberts. “As soon as I seen him, I realized who he was.”

The two recognized the man from flyers his mother had passed out to fellow rangers.

“She just wanted to find her son and get him home,” said Osornio.

The pair also knew of him from a previous encounter, but at the time, he had refused services.

“So we kind of just always kept an eye out for him,” said Osornio. “We're like, we're gonna run across him again. We've run into him before in a park, it's going to happen again.”

But that day, both say they were in the right place at the right time when they spotted the man. This time, he accepted their help.

“He was cold. He was wet. He was missing a shoe,” said Osornio. “He was hungry and thirsty, so we offered him water, and I offered him my lunch.”

The two rangers say they’ll always remember how grateful the mother was.

“She was just very happy to have her son home,” said Osornio. “That she never gave up hope.”

It’s an experience the pair says will stay with them as they continue to watch over Bakersfield’s parks and the people in them.

“I feel like I make a change. Not just when I encounter a homeless person, I make a change in the community keeping the parks clean,” said Osornio. “It’s the first time in a long time that I actually see kids playing in playgrounds, parks that don't have tents and shopping carts. So I feel like I make a difference.”