It is easy to forget the many different types of parkland located in urban areas. Besides municipal parks, there are also state, county, regional and national parks. In the 85 largest cities, 15 cities are home to 48 National Park units, which include monuments, houses, forts, battlefields and preserves. Washington, D.C. has by far the most national park units (21 and counting) but smaller park units in other cities are also recruiting new staff.
With half of the nation’s park rangers slated for retirement in the next five years, the National Park Service has struggled with recruitment of new staff, especially in the urban park units. Enter in the “ProRanger Philadelphia” internship program, a joint effort between Temple University and the National Park Service, that placed 13 college students in urban national parks this summer. This pilot program trains (and pays) interns the beginnings of law enforcement while also exposing them to interpretation and maintenance of the park. While the program is targeted towards Criminal Justice majors, students from any major can apply. After successful completion of the program, interns are guaranteed National Park Service jobs upon graduation from college. The 12-week summer program can begin as early as the summer after freshman year.
One of the exciting aspects of this program is that it is attracting minorities to a career path that is not really diverse within the Park Service. Many of the students participating in the program had never met a park ranger before or even visited a national park. Others had never even considered a career with the Park Service. This program is giving urban minority students an opportunity to work in a national park in their home communities and should be used as a great catalyst to bring visibility as well as new users to city parks.
Recent articles in The Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer highlight the program at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore and Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, respectively. More information about the ProRanger Philadelphia program can be found here.