ORLANDO, Fla. - Avarice Ginovonni Smith is a park ranger with the city of Orlando, a new position created during the pandemic.
"We bring the sunshine," Smith said.
"They had to close all the rec centers and all the pools and everything, said Chris Wallace with the city. "We decided to keep them employed, give them jobs to do."
Wallace says the park ranger program began in 1988 in Lake Eola. In 2020, they expanded to other parks to keep them clean and stop the spread of COVID-19. The role has changed. Now, they also make sure people are safe and that the parks are patrolled.
"The Orlando Police Department has been very thankful for it because they’re not wasting resources coming to parks."
Not only do park rangers maintain the park, but the city says they are driving down crime. Deterring graffiti and other incidences.
"Our biggest achievement, what I call, is George Barker Park. You used to go out there, and you wouldn’t see kids on the playground," added Wallace. "We had transients in there, we had sometimes drug use going on, and by making a presence and working with OPD, drugs went away. There are kids on the playground again,"
Wallace says the new position is also saving the county money by catching problems before they turn catastrophic.
"Our first year we saved over $200 in facility savings. They caught a pump that was failing, and they were able to turn it off instead of getting a brand-new pump."
Smith, who used to work in athletics for the city for 29 years, has made the permanent move to park ranger. He now works at Lake Lorna Doone Park where he says the role is as important as ever.
"Safety, safety, safety in the times that we live in," he said.