PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Visitors to Allegheny County parks or the city’s Schenley Park will soon see men and women in a different kind of uniform — that of park ranger.

“They’re going to be the ambassadors to welcome people to our parks,” declared Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

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Ambassadors skilled at answering questions from park visitors like, added Mayor Bill Peduto, “What that tree is, how and why this type of bird has chosen to live here? what the different opportunities are within this park?”

The rangers will be unarmed with no arrest power — powers left to the county police — while the rangers take on other tasks.

“Working on our trails, education,” added county manager William McKain.

“We have a lot of exciting new programs that we’re going to roll out that the rangers are doing. When people are in our parks and want to know where to go to get a shelter, where’s our trails, where can they rent a bike, they’re going to be our communicators.”

While these park rangers will not have law enforcement or public safety responsibilities, their presence in the park will free county police to do things elsewhere, officials said.

“One hundred-thirty municipalities call the county police — homicide, narcotics, sexual assault, general investigations,” said McKain.

Unlike the county police in the parks, the rangers want visitors to come up to them — a lot.

Braden Meiter is the lead supervisory ranger.

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“If you see us in the parks, come up, say hi, we’d love to talk to you. If you have a question, please ask us. We’d love to give you an answer,” said Meiter.

Sam Ashcraft of Erie comes here through the Student Conservation Association that links young adults to careers in conservation.

Ashcraft’s specialty? Snakes, but in our parks?

“You may see a timber rattler, but it’s incredibly doubtful,” says Ashcraft. “The worse thing you’re going to find is a garter snake, a little black snake. Don’t be alarmed. He’s more afraid of you than you of him.”

So no deadly snakes, but plenty of new park rangers.

Fitzgerald joined “The KDKA Morning News” and added that the parks will still have security in the parks.

“Our county police, who do a fantastic job, will continue to be there when we have some of our big events,” he said. “There will still be a presence [in the parks] for security.  [The county police’s] job is not to talk about what type of trees are there, that’s not what they’re trained for, they are trained in law enforcement and criminal justice.”

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