National Park Service Announces Plans to Increase Collaboration
Superintendent Kristina Heister of Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (UPDE) announces a new initiative designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the National Park Service’s (NPS) law enforcement and emergency services operations in the 73-mile long river corridor park located on the boundary between NY and PA. The initiative will be implemented this year and involves much closer cooperation and collaboration with the law enforcement and emergency services program at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DEWA).
“We already work closely with the management and staff at DEWA on a number of things and it has always proven to be highly beneficial to both park units,” said Superintendent Heister. “Across the region we look for opportunities to collaborate and share resources among park units and this initiative is an example of that effort. It is not an effort to combine UPDE and DEWA but does seek to increase operational efficiency, streamline communications, and ultimately, provide better service to the public.”
The two parks currently share or cooperate to provide the following law enforcement and emergency services activities:
• Water safety outreach and education; 24-hour emergency communications/ dispatch services; public affairs and public information officer support and services; NPS Dive Team resources;
Inter-Agency High Angle Rescue Team participation and resources; targeted and special emphasis patrol operations (e.g. hunting patrols, DUI enforcement operations, commercial vehicle enforcement, Click-It or Ticket operations, etc.); training opportunities including wildland firefighting, Emergency Medical Services, and law enforcement tactics and techniques; and cooperation to maintain consistency in Commercial Use Authorizations & Special Use Permits.
Under this model, management and budgetary control for the two parks will continue to be the sole responsibility of the respective superintendents. UPDE will maintain its current staff of five permanent law enforcement rangers and the rangers at each park will continue to primarily patrol their respective park areas. However, after a period of training and orientation law enforcement rangers from both parks may be assigned targeted patrol duties at either park after careful planning and clear objectives are established for those patrol operations.
“With our current staffing levels, stagnant projected budget allocations, and the volume of administrative and collateral duties our rangers have to complete, it is very difficult to provide adequate services in the summer months when we need it,” explained Heister. At UPDE, this plan will result in more time for law enforcement rangers to be on the river, opportunities to share expertise and promote consistency across the two units, and some cost savings. Additionally, law enforcement staff will obtain a more diverse set of experiences and professional development opportunities, including the staff at DEWA who will benefit greatly from UPDE’s expertise in river patrols and operations. Overall, law enforcement staff at both parks will work together closely to plan, provide oversight, and ensure coordination of the staff schedules and activities to achieve the goal of working as one team to meet the needs of both parks.
Both superintendents believe that this is not just a good idea, but a timely and necessary step to address issues associated with stagnant or declining long-term budget scenarios, significant reductions in the number of law enforcement personnel at UPDE over the last 35 years, an expanding and more diverse American public, and the need to find new and innovative ways to address the challenges of the 21st century.