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Wash. Lawmakers Try to Save Park Ranger Jobs

December 22, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Concerned about the massive layoff of park rangers, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers has asked the state Parks and Recreation Commission to delay sending out notices until after the Legislature meets in January.

The Columbian reported that the Dec. 14 letter raises the issue of public safety after nearly half of the 189 full-time permanent park rangers are laid off or given the option of seasonal employment.

Park rangers are fully commissioned law enforcement officers, and respond to incidents in state parks, along with their many other duties.

“If we take half of the park rangers away, we’re never going to get those people back,” said Rep. Mike Armstrong, one of 12 lawmakers who signed the letter. “These people are very qualified for what they do. I just want the commission to be extremely cautious about it, and not do it until they absolutely have to,” the Wenatchee Republican added.

But a Parks Commission spokeswoman said Tuesday a delay would cost the agency about $750,000 each month, and is not likely to happen. Final notices are expected to go out Wednesday to employees whose jobs are affected, said spokeswoman Virginia Painter.

She said the notices are complicated due to civil service requirements. Although 160 employees received notices that their jobs were at risk early this month, “in the end, we won’t be giving out that many notices,” she said.

Current plans call for the state’s 116 parks to go from 189 to 106 full-time year-round rangers, and from 76 to 60 full-time permanent construction and maintenance staff, Painter said. A majority of people who are laid off will have the option of taking a seasonal job with the agency, she said.

“In the end, we think there won’t be that many fewer people on the ground during the high (summer) season,” she said.

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