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New ranger seeking solutions to issues in Evergreen parks

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By Sandy Barnes

As the newly hired park ranger for the Evergreen Park and Recreation District, Jason Garner says he plans to work with community residents to find solutions to issues that trouble them.

“My goal is getting out there, making my presence known, so people have somebody to go to,” Garner said.

By involving the community, problems in the parks can be reduced, he said.

“Complaining, having issues, will only get you so far,” Garner said.

Garner is working in a part-time position created to provide oversight of park district venues.

By reading news articles, Garner said he has been learning about concerns regarding traffic and large crowds, especially at Evergreen Lake Park.

“I saw a lot of press the lake was getting, and spoke with Brad (Bednar, Lake House supervisor),” he said.

Garner is developing an implementation plan for the Evergreen park district, which includes a parking protocol for congested areas.

To enforce park district rules, Garner said, park users need guidance through a community-based policing model that includes an educational component.

“Basically, it’s a major campaign on education,” he said. “Part of my goal is informing folks.”

To let dog owners know about park rules, which include cleaning up after their pets, Garner is designing a brochure.

While discussing recent complaints from residents about teenagers creating a disturbance at Marshdale Park, Garner said that while patrolling areas he would look for drug and alcohol violations and advise youngsters of park hours.

Another of Garner’s goals is establishing a citizen volunteer corps for the rec district.

“We’re looking at creating a protocol, a certain level of professionalism and training,” he said of the volunteer program.

Although he does not have law enforcement authority in the park district, Garner said he is working to establish a partnership with the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office and with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.

Garner has an extensive background in law enforcement, having worked for the Denver Police Department and the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections in Golden after earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2002.

Garner served as a correctional officer during the 10 years he worked with criminal delinquents. In 2009, he was promoted to a quality assurance and internal affairs position at the juvenile facility. During that time, he developed and implemented plans to investigate inmate complaints about officers, facility conditions and rights violations.

While with the Denver Police Department, Garner collected and analyzed crime statistics, wrote grant proposals and wrote research papers that covered issues including marijuana legislation, gangs, racial profiling and illegal immigration.

Garner also holds a master’s degree in criminal justice and is completing doctoral work in his field while teaching classes as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado at Denver.

The territory in which he is now working is familiar to Garner, who grew up in Marshdale and graduated from Conifer High School.

Since his younger days in Marshdale, Garner said, he has seen a lot of growth and change in the area.

Part of the growth comes from people in Denver and other areas who visit parks in Evergreen for their peace and tranquility, he said. And their rights need to be respected, he said.  Evergreen is beautiful — but not only for a select few, Garner remarked.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.