Little Rock (ASP) - For the second year in a row, the law enforcement arm of Arkansas State Parks has been singled out as one of the finest of its kind in the country. The Park Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) presented the Platinum Excellence Award to the ASP Emergency Services Program at their recent annual conference.
“We are thrilled to be acknowledged on a national level,” said Arkansas State Parks Director Grady Spann. “Arkansas State Parks is an agency that does law enforcement - not a law enforcement agency. Therefore, training becomes very significant. This award confirms the effort that we put forth to train our officers to be skilled in every circumstance.”
The PLEA Platinum Excellence Award is given to an agency that exemplifies superiority in all aspects of park law enforcement. It is awarded by the current Board of Directors to that park enforcement or park safety agency that demonstrates a commitment to:
“This recognition verifies that we are making changes in the right directions and the stats are showing it,” said Arkansas State Parks Emergency Services Manager Terry Rutledge. “Although we are a fairly small state, we are leading the nation in creating a safe environment for our park visitors, as well as being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We want our staff to have confidence that they are trained to perform at a very high levels. Receiving the Presidents Platinum award gives them a reason to be very proud of their work and hold their heads even higher.”
Recently, ASP removed the ranger staff from the Operations Department and created a new division named Emergency Services, now managed by Rutledge. Chad Fougerousse is taking the reigns as chief ranger after having served as deputy chief for the last three years and has been with ASP since 2004. Also, the Legislature enacted a new rule in which park rangers have statewide authority – not just within the boundaries of a state park.
“Parks are like outdoor museums,” said Spann. “We preserve some of Arkansas’s most beautiful and historic places. Park rangers protect the park’s animals, plants, land, buildings, artifacts and people. They’re an instrumental part of our parks system and we couldn’t be prouder to be granted this honor.”
There are 90 law enforcement professionals who work in the 52 Arkansas state parks. Their duties are various and remarkably wide ranging. In addition to many other obligations, rangers responsibilities include patrolling areas of the park such as trails, marinas, campgrounds, facilities, parking lots and other resources that are entrusted to Arkansas State Parks. Also, they perform search and rescue operations when needed, as well as respond to medical emergencies.
About Arkansas State Parks
Arkansas state parks and museums cover 54,400 acres of forest, wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation facilities and unique historic and cultural resources. The system includes 1,100 buildings (including 183 historic structures), six National Historic Landmarks, a National Natural Landmark and 16 sites on the National Register of Historic Places.
The state parks have 1,800 camp sites, 1,050 picnic sites, 208 cabins, five lodges, and 415 miles of trails. Eight million visitors annually come from all regions of the country. Park staffs provide over 42,000 education programs, activities and special events to more than 700,000 participants each year.
Established in 1923, Arkansas State Parks preserve special places for future generations, provide quality recreation and education opportunities, enhance the state’s economy through tourism, and provide leadership in resource conservation.