Anyone who’s ever wanted to be a park ranger or wondered about the inner workings of a Texas state park could consider enrolling in the third annual Citizen’s Park Ranger Academy, offered this spring in North Texas by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.


Robert Enckhausen, a park police officer and superintendent of Dinosaur Valley State Park, says he sees the citizens academy as a way to help area residents and local business community members better understand their local state park and to garner greater park support. The classes will be taught by park staff.

“I consider this academy a gateway to building long-lasting partnerships,” Enckhausen said. “Academy graduates should gain an in-depth appreciation of Dinosaur Valley, the state park’s purpose and mission, and a greater understanding of the Texas State Park system.”

Students will meet from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday from April 9 through April 30. Enrollees will split their time between Dinosaur Valley and Cleburne state parks. Students must be at least 15 years old to attend without a parent and be prepared to engage in physically demanding activities, such as lifting, hiking and crawling. Youngsters 13 to 15 years of age may attend with a parent.

Participation in the academy is growing, with 15 individuals trained the first year and 21 trained the second year. Several participants have even volunteered or been hired at a state park after undergoing training in the academy.

One of the hires from the first year, Tony Smith, is now the office manager at Daingerfield State Park, where he assists with registration, collects fees and helps answer questions for park visitors. A new hire from last year’s program, Brandi Heasley, is now a seasonal clerk at Meridian State Park just south of Dallas.

“The academy gave me a great deal of knowledge, skills and insight into the agency,” said Heasley. “I made great contacts at CPRA and my love for this field grew greatly.”

This year’s Citizen’s Park Ranger Academy features new segments on trail building and maintenance. Enrollees can also expect hands-on instruction on wildland firefighting, park interpretation, search and rescue operations and law enforcement, according to Enckhausen. Participants will also alternate between Cleburne and Dinosaur Valley for interactive participation in expanded field operations with large equipment usage, an archeological session and a Dutch oven cook-off.

Participants must be physically and mentally prepared to walk, hike, crawl, dig, stand, jump, lift and perform other physically demanding tasks as part of the academy. Academy graduates will receive a certificate and t-shirt.

All activities will be led by park staff, and there is no cost to attend the academy. Class size is limited and registration should be completed by April 5.

To learn more about the Citizen’s Park Ranger Academy and to enroll, contact Dinosaur Valley’s Robert Enckhausen at 254-897-4588, ext. 222 or

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