The Coast News Group
Taylor Oshinski, Head of Ranger Enforcement in San Marcos, stands in front of Discovery Lake. It’s one of the 35 parks rangers patrol to keep safe and clean while on duty. Photo by Stephanie Stang
CitiesCommunityCommunityNewsRegionSan Marcos

San Marcos rangers keep unique educational programs alive in parks

SAN MARCOS — Next time you visit a city park, you might think twice about what goes on behind the scenes. Rangers, paid and unpaid, patrol the parks to keep them safe, clean and full of life with various programs. Right now, the city of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department is looking for “outdoorsy” folks interested in joining their team.

Recreation Coordinator Taylor Oshinski was recently appointed head of ranger enforcement and said there are a variety of tasks involved in protecting the city’s 35 parks and 36 miles of trails.

“We help with special events,” he said. “We patrol in the parks. We help enforce municipal codes. We educate our residents. We just try to be a good presence in the community.”

Rangers work more on the enforcement side while the parks department handles maintenance issues, although sometimes the lines blur. Plus, rangers are certified and must know the laws of arrest.

“Our rangers are able to write citations for the San Marcos municipal code and same for some state violations as well,” Oshinski said. “We are out talking to park goers and educating them on park rules, seeing if they have their dog off the leash. We now have no smoking within the city, especially with wildfire season.  We want to be a positive asset to the community.”

Not to be confused with the caretaker program, these individuals live on-site and open and close their locations.

Some surrounding cities have bigger ranger programs, like Poway, but San Marcos has one of the largest with seven paid rangers and 30 reserve rangers. The reserve rangers aren’t paid and without many of them, some of the programs wouldn’t exist.

Like Reserve Ranger John Walsh, he started volunteering as an astronomy expert at Double Peak Park more than a year ago. The city teamed up with the Air Force pilot, who flew during Vietnam, to offer Star Walk, a star-gazing program. After it gained popularity, San Marcos can proudly say it offers an award-winning program that educates the public about astronomy.

Also, when Erica Salmon arrived at Jack’s Pond Nature Center one weekend and found it was closed, her kids were devastated. “They loved it and they were going like every weekend. And one day we went, and the doors were not open, and they cried and cried, and I didn’t understand why,” she said.

She decided she would volunteer after speaking with the ranger on duty. “He said we can only open if we have a volunteer there to come and open it.” Typically, she spends a few hours every Saturday morning there with her children and likes the idea of them spending more time with nature than in front of the television.

Volunteers must be 18 years old and pass a background check along with an interview. They must also have a passion for the outdoors and all things involving nature and enjoy working with the public.

Oshinski says it’s a great “office” space for volunteering and they are always accepting applications. “If they are retired, or they have free time and they want to be a good asset to their community. For example, John (Walsh) he’s retired, he has a few days where he can help out, so John just is very passionate about being a volunteer and helping us out. He loves being outside and I mean look at the beautiful setting here who wouldn’t want to love spending their time here.”

For more information about volunteering with the city of San Marcos visit