Waco Chat

Kim Jennings

By Kevin Tankersley

Park Ranger Supervisor

“We’re really a park ambassador for the city.”

We are technically under the city of Waco Parks and Recreation Department. This came from [retired park ranger] Lanny French: We protect the people from the park and protect the park from the people. We enforce any rules and city ordinances.

A lot of times, we’re the first face that people may encounter when they come to Cameron Park, so we’ll get a lot of questions. How do I rent this pavilion? Where can I go to eat? Do you have a trail map? I’m lost. What are the park hours?

We get inundated with a lot of random questions about what people want to experience in the park, how they can use it, what they can or can’t do. We’re really a park ambassador for the city.

We don’t want to approach people as a heavy-handed law enforcement presence. We want to educate them about what they can and can’t do. This is what we do here. This is why we do it. And we hope that you’ll share this space with everybody respectfully, and we want you to come back.

We do [have hikers get lost on the trails]. A lot of times, they’ll be very ambitious. They’ll start off, say they park at Redwood Shelter, and somehow they make their way through the trail system and they end up at Lovers Leap. They pop out, and they’re like, ‘Oh, my goodness. I have no idea how we got here.’

Jennings’ drink of choice was her own concoction: cherry lemon mint water. “It’s really nice, refreshing and light,” she said. A perfect drink for a 90-degree afternoon in early June. “I love Miss Nellie’s Pretty Place,” Jennings said of that particular area of the park where she chose to meet. “This is a place that I have come to when I’m sad, or if I have a difficult decision that I need to make, I’ll come out here and walk.”

With the trails, I liken it to the inside guts of a baseball. You take it out, you look, you’re like, ‘Wow. Look at all these twists and turns. I don’t even know how to get to the middle of it.’

Then the trails look different at different times of the day. If you’re an early morning park user, the shadows and the sun are going to give a different experience versus when you’re here later in the evening using the trail system.

Cameron Park, to me, encapsulates everything that Waco is. It has something literally for everybody. You don’t have to be mobile. You don’t have to be really outdoorsy, athletic. You can come out here and you can drive through Cameron Park. You can experience the beauty just from your car.

You can come out and sit at a picnic table and enjoy. You can watch your kids or your grandkids play from underneath one of our shaded pavilions. There are disc golf courses. There’s a little bit of something for everybody.

Kim Jennings is the supervisor of park rangers for the city of Waco. She’s been a ranger for nearly 20 years. When she was a student at Baylor University, Jennings volunteered in the horsemanship program at Waco Center for Youth. She grew up riding, and at the center, she saw the “powerful connection” between the children and the horses. She still sees that when she’s on horseback while patrolling Cameron Park.