Natural Resource Officers are the protectors of our parks

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CHILLICOTHE—When you visit one of Ohio’s 76 state parks and waterways, you’ll occasionally see an officer patrolling the area. These natural resource officers not only protect visitors on land and water, but also the parks’ forests, waterways and wildlife.

“Our natural resources officers are passionate about protecting people and property in our great outdoors,” said Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Natural resource officers are different from rangers seen in national parks. State park officers take on more of a law enforcement role. They carry the weapons and handcuffs needed to make arrests. They also have full permission to give away tickets. Although primarily in law enforcement, officers sometimes help with programming, many have spoken to school children about their jobs and have run boating programs teaching boaters how to be safe.

Trent Scott has served in his role for over 15 years, serving as one of the Ross County Area Officers, where he covers locations such as Great Seal State Park, Scioto State Park Trail, Tar Hollow State Forest, and the Scioto River. On top of that, Ross County officers are part of a group with seven other counties helping each other, so at any time an officer can be called up to the Ohio River for backup. They can also be called upon to assist local fire and police departments when needed.

Calls to officers range from complaints of noise in campgrounds and downed trees to theft of wood and lost hikers. Although agents may not receive important calls, such as lost hikers, they still need to be prepared each day as the work can be unpredictable.

“Fortunately, the big stuff is rare,” Scott said.

Before becoming an officer, cadets must complete a six-month training academy where they receive general law enforcement training in subjects such as criminal law, search and seizure, patrol and techniques of law enforcement. Officers must also be able to continuously swim 300 meters in less than 12 minutes, continuously walk on water for five minutes, and perform a surface dive to retrieve an object in a minimum of five feet of water. from a walking position on the water. These skills help officers prepare for anything they might encounter on the job. They are also tested annually on these skills to ensure they still meet the requirements.

Agents need to stay up to date on all their skills because they never know what they can do on any given day. That’s why Scott says a good officer has to be adaptable. He says that some days there may be no problem and other days it feels like there are hundreds of problems to solve.

Officer Trent Scott checks the waterways as he tours several state parks in the area.

“You come to work with this job and you never know what the day has in store for you,” Scott said.

Scott became an officer after deciding at a young age that he wanted to work outdoors. Although the job involves paperwork, most of the time officers can fill out reports on their vehicle’s laptop. Scott loves being able to be outside most of his day, he would much rather be on the river or in the woods than being stuck in an office.

“If you love the outdoors, I can’t think of a better job,” Scott said.

Some people go to the isolated areas of the park to engage in illegal activities. Patrol officers seek to catch those who profit from the timber and shut down any activities that might create trouble.

“Unfortunately there are people who come to the parks to do things they shouldn’t be doing,” Scott said.

Scott says stopping points on logging roads are a popular place for people to hide. When patrolling these roads, he makes sure to keep an eye out for anything suspicious, as not everyone on these roads is engaging in illegal activities, some are just enjoying the great outdoors.

The good interactions with people far outweigh the good for most Agents. Scott loves being able to help those in need and understands that a little interaction for him can make a big difference for the person he is helping. He says for every negative interaction he has, there are hundreds of good ones.

To end his shift, Scott writes an end-of-shift report detailing what he did throughout the day. This report tells other officers where he patrolled that day and all the incidents he handled. They help other officers decide what to do on their shift and which areas to patrol. Agents like to be present in all the parks, so it is important that they know who has already been where.

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