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Meet Ranger LaBounty

Lake Oswego's one and only park ranger, Ben LaBounty, roams the city providing customer service to the public
by: VERN UYETAKE Lake Oswego park ranger Ben LaBounty makes his rounds on a sunny day along the beach at George Rogers Park.

As park ranger for the city of Lake Oswego, Ben LaBounty has to be ready for anything. Crying kids, coyotes and citizens who break park rules.

Or alien invaders of the Lake Oswego heartland.

One day reports came flowing in about an 8-foot tall silver robot walking the beach at George Rogers Park was accompanied by a cow, chicken and surfer.

'I made contact with the giant robot,' LaBounty said, 'and deciphered that it was a school project.'

Another incident occurred on Cooks Butte when LaBounty raced over to investigate a suspicious subject in the park, described as a large wizard walking in the woods.

'Upon arrival and contact with the fully decked-out wizard in purple robes, a long white beard and purple pointed hat,' LaBounty said, 'I found out the wizard and his friend were filming promotional videos for Lego Waffles.'

It is not every day that LaBounty is challenged by a purple wizard or giant robot, but he does a superb job of handling the day-to-day stuff. Park rangers often get a bad rap, like the one who was always getting outsmarted by Yogi Bear. LaBounty has never faced a bear, but it is doubtful any bear could get the best of Ben LaBounty.

'Ben goes above and beyond the expectations of his position with us as park ranger,' said Gary Evans, who just retired as assistant director of the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department. 'He is a source of pride for all of us.'

LaBounty often gets mentioned in the city digest for his good deeds. Such as the time he showed up to help transport valuable equipment to city hall:

'The officers involved were very appreciative and wanted others to know that they consider him to be kind, considerate, dedicated, and very professional.

'Like always Ben LaBounty set an example of quality customer service and demonstrated what it means to be a true team player.'

One of LaBounty's assets is that he really looks like a park ranger - broad shoulders, strong, short and bushy beard, and a face that instantly tells you, 'This is a nice guy.' In his case, what you see is what you get.

'Basically, my job is to be a resource for people out there,' LaBounty said.

That means covering 680 acres of parkland and 490 acres of natural area. His day starts with checking in with the parks department, reading emails, getting phone messages. Then he starts his patrol. He is ready to help on special events and keeps a sharp eye out for unsafe behavior. He issues citations to rule breakers, keeps track of Lake Oswego's many coyotes and rescues ducks and geese that become trapped.

He is also a walking first aid station, equipped to treat the bumps and scrapes of kids ('I give them moral support and a Band-aid') or help a senior citizen who might suddenly collapse.

'The biggest challenge I have is telling people not to do something,' LaBounty said. 'It's not in my personality to want to get people angry. I just want to make sure everyone is enjoying their time at the park.'

It was three years ago that LaBounty ran into former Lake Oswego city park ranger Randy Smith at a concert at Foothills Park. Smith immediately sized up LaBounty as an excellent prospect as a park ranger. Now he is pretty much an institution.

'I'm at sports, culture events, special events,' LaBounty said. 'I give furnace tours, run junior ranger programs and give tours at Luscher Farm. Concerts in the summer are a good way to be seen.

'At the last concert there were 3,000 people at Westlake Park, and everyone was having a wonderful time. Our staff here is the best and everyone makes it work.'

A family man, LaBounty's wife Jenny is a professor at Lewis and Clark College and they have two young children.

You don't need to hesitate to come to LaBounty with a problem. Or even to just walk up to say 'Hi.'

'The community reaches out to me,' he said.