Published Date Written by Craig Lyons
At Portland's East End boat launch, a new ranger has come to town to keep an eye on the waterfront. They call him the "Iron Ranger."
The city's Public Services Department installed the Iron Ranger to help to collect fees that aren't being paid because a park ranger isn't on hand at the boat launch, according to Parks and Cemeteries Manager Joe Dumais. The park ranger program has been severely cut, said Dumais, and the city was left with one full-time person and a number of part-time people. With the limited numbers and the volume of tasks and project, he said, it's tough for a ranger to stay in one place — like the boat launch — for an extended period of time.
"It's a busy place," he said. Dumais said since a ranger isn't always at the launch, people don't always pay the fee. The Public Service Department estimates that $800 is being lost each day between Memorial and Labor days because a park ranger isn't monitoring the launch. "It's an attempt to try to capture some more of that revenue," he said.
The Iron Ranger won't supplant a live park ranger, said Dumais. "[The launch] will still be manned by a ranger most of the time," he said. Using the Iron Ranger isn't that difficult, said Dumais, and it's self-explanatory. To launch a boat using the Iron Ranger, people simply remove one of the envelops, tears off a stub, put the stub on their dashboard, put the $5 fee in the envelop and deposit the envelop in the tube. The Iron Ranger that's being used at the boat launch was installed for about $4,000, according to Dumais, but there are other Iron Ranger models that function like a vending machine but they cost a lot more.
"It's a one-time investment," he said. "It will pay for itself in a summer." The Iron Ranger has been used by both the National Park Service and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, according to Dumais, and that where the city got the idea from.
Jeanne Curran, director of public information for the Maine Department of Conservation, said the state has seen mixed results from the Iron Ranger since they were installed in some of the state's 48 parks.
"We find compliance is relatively low with the Iron Ranger," she said, and that people are more likely to pay the fee when the entrance booths are staffed. Dumais said he thinks there will be people who will dodge the launch fee when there isn't a ranger on duty. He said that behavior might change if people forego the $5 fee that's supposed to be deposited in the Iron Ranger and instead start racking up $25 tickets. Dumais said even though not everyone will use the Iron Ranger before launching a boat, there are enough people who will use it. "It was a good investment," he said.