If You Go
What: Longmont City Council study session
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Civic Center council chambers
Longmont is preparing to assign park rangers to its downtown business district, according to the city staff and the Longmont Downtown Development Authority.
Expanding the size and responsibilities of Longmont’s current corps of park rangers — employees who now staff the city’s parks, greenways and open space properties — will “help ensure that everyone using our public spaces has a positive experience,” city staff and Downtown Development Authority officials wrote in a memo for Tuesday night’s city council study session.
City and the Downtown Development Authority staffs will be asking council to consider applying the municipal code’s rules and regulations about uses of “public lands” to some downtown “microplazas” and to the east-west pedestrian breezeways linking the 300, 400 and 500 blocks of Main Street to the north-south alleys behind those blocks.
Longmont Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kimberlee McKee on Thursday said the move could include adapting park curfews to apply them to the downtown plazas and breezeways.
Under that approach, people could use the breezeways to walk back and forth between Main Street and the parking lots behind Main anytime during the day or night, but between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. people would not be allowed to gather or loiter in those breezeways or plazas, McKee said.
The cost of the program adding park rangers to the downtown area will be $60,000. That expense is to be shared by $30,000 from the city budget’s Colorado Lottery-funded Conservation Trust account, $15,000 from the budget’s open space account and $15,000 from the Downtown Development Authority.
Versions of Longmont’s noise ordinance and its anti-littering and trash-disposal regulations also could be applied to individuals and groups using those public spaces, she said, as part of a goal of “keeping the downtown a safe and comfortable place” for people working in or visiting the area.
“We absolutely want people to use these places. We just want to make sure they’re safe and inviting,” McKee said.
The Downtown Development Authority and city staff in their memo to council suggested the additional rangers also would be responsible for Roosevelt Park at 700 Longs Peak Ave., Thompson Park at 420 Bross St. and Collyer Park at 619 Collyer St.
Longmont is hiring three people who will serve “during the warm season,” downtown and in those downtown-area parks, according to that memo.
The new rangers “will have additional training and a strong tie to police services” and “will focus on education, compliance and enforcement of relevant ordinances in addition to having a wealth of information about natural resources and downtown amenities.
“If they encounter people who need help, they will be able to connect them to those services as well,” city and Downtown Development Authority officials stated in the memo.
“With the goal of keeping downtown clean safe and vibrant, collaborative discussions took place around public lands” between the Development Authority and a Safe and Welcoming Public Spaces internal city staff committee, according to the memo.
One of the recommendations from those discussions about “ensuring that public spaces stay clean and safe was to define and include breezeways and microplazas” in the Public Lands section of municipal code in order to set “rules and expectations” for downtown public spaces, the Development Authority and city staff reported.
The city and Development Authority staffs plan to bring an ordinance to the council, “in the coming weeks,” that would apply many of the public lands code rules to breezeways and microplazas.
The city also issued a Thursday night news release announcing the expanded-ranger program for downtown Longmont, calling it “an effort to provide more eyes and ears and a welcoming presence in Longmont’s public spaces.”
Pedestrian traffic to downtown restaurants and businesses have increased, and the area is an important entry point to the city’s trails and greenway system, said David Bell, the city’s natural resources manager.
“Increasingly, public spaces like plazas and breezeways in downtown are well used, serving as connections to parks and open spaces in other parts of the city,” Bell stated in the news release.
As Longmont expands its park ranger program into the downtown, “it makes sense” to apply many of the city’s rules about the uses of parks and greenways to the downtown’s plazas and breezeways, he said.
Last year, Longmont and the Downtown Development Authority shared in the costs of paying private security firm Trident Protection Group $29,440 to have “ambassadors” patrol parts of the downtown, downtown-area parks, and the city’s St. Vrain Greenway and Lefthand Greenway in June, July and August.
City staff in Thursday’s news release said that while that pilot program of using privately contracted ambassadors was “useful for understanding downtown needs and wants,” the Downtown Development Authority and the city “believe expansion of the city’s existing ranger program staffed by city employees, would better serve the area.”
Bell in a Friday interview and email said the decision to staff the downtown area with rangers, rather than using a security firm again, was based in part on the idea that it would be “a lot more beneficial to have individuals who work directly for the city,” rather than outsourcing the job.
“As the manager of the park rangers and the parks operations team, my commitment is to make sure that our parks are clean, safe and welcoming to all of our current users and assuring that we protect our natural, cultural and historic resources for future generations,” he said.
One of the three rangers will be a certified law enforcement officer, Bell said, and able to perform such functions as making arrests if needed. All three will be seasonal employees and not full-time throughout the year.
He said none of the three rangers has yet been hired but his goal is to have them hired, trained and on the job by mid-May.
The city’s news release said if council decides to apply some of Longmont’s public lands municipal code regulations to the downtown breezeways and plazas, “the new rangers would enforce these regulations and will also serve as goodwill ambassadors and deliver helpful services to business owners, patrons, and visitors.”
Contact Staff Writer John Fryar at 303-684-5211 or email@example.com or twitter.com/jfryartc