‘Making a connection’: Meet new Point La Jolla ranger aide Gilbert Herrera

New park ranger aide Gilbert Herrera says he loves talking to people at Point La Jolla.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

For city of San Diego park ranger aide Gilbert Herrera, his new position at Point La Jolla is a decade in the making, giving him the opportunity to transition to a role he says is due to “perfect timing.”

Herrera started as a ranger aide three months ago; Point La Jolla is his first assignment.

“I’m very excited,” he said.

His jurisdiction is from the Torrey Pines Gliderport south to Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma, though he mainly covers Point La Jolla during its recently instituted closure for sea lion pupping season, May 1 to Oct. 31.

He ensures that visitors to Point La Jolla adhere to the restrictions and boundaries of the closure and also patrols the area to enforce regulations such as dogs on leashes at Scripps Park.

His role eventually will transition into park ranger, which includes all the aforementioned duties plus being able to write citations.

Herrera, a native San Diegan from the College Grove area, is joined by other rangers and aides in the jurisdiction. They often work in pairs on an overlapping schedule, he said.

A ranger or ranger aide is assigned to Point La Jolla from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. Herrera is on duty Wednesdays through Saturdays.

“I love it,” he said of his new assignment. “It’s not always about enforcement. It’s making a connection with people, educating people.”

“The customer service part” of the job is Herrera’s favorite, he said. “I’m excited to talk to a diverse amount of people here … being able to serve San Diegans and tourists.”

He said he’s also enjoying the collaboration among the rangers, lifeguards and police officers in the area. “We’re all working together; we’re all communicating.”

He said once he’s an expert on the regulations, he “would love to do interpretive stuff” — imparting information about the area, the rock formations, the types of animals, native and non-native plants and more.

“I was trained at Mission Trails [Regional Park in the Tierrasanta area],” Herrera said, “so I want to put that into use.”

“I like talking to people, I love animals, so this is the perfect area for me.”

— Gilbert Herrera

He said the biggest need at Point La Jolla, besides making sure people are abiding by the rules, is educating them about marine life and the difference between the sea lions there and the seals at the Children’s Pool.

Herrera said the ranger aide job came after nearly 10 years working in city recreation centers and parks like Chollas Lake in the Oak Park area, running Lego clubs, crafts classes and more.

He said he became interested in a ranger position after being involved with the city’s Kids to Canyons program, which taught children about their natural environment.

“I would take kids from the inner-city rec centers to mission trails,” Herrera said. “It was always such a beautiful thing to see.”

Herrera said the skills he honed with the recreation centers and parks prepared him for his role at Point La Jolla.

“Everything is a perfect match,” he said. “I was teaching classes; I was running the teen centers with 30 kids in there at a time, trying to be a mentor, trying to change lives for the better. I think I can still transmit that here. I was also enforcing rules … the difference now is that I have a badge, I’m trained. It’s a very good transition from the rec centers to being a ranger.”

“I’m hoping to have a long career here,” he added. “I see it as a big opportunity being here. I like talking to people, I love animals, so this is the perfect area for me.” ◆