Mayor's Corner: Get To Know Our Park Ambassadors
As the weather warms up, Lakewood is a lovely place to enjoy spring, especially in our high-quality public parks. The City of Lakewood continues to invest in those parks to ensure that our residents have great experiences with recreation and relaxation in our greenspaces. That includes physical improvements, such as the rebuilding and modernization of Foster Pool, but our investments also include staffing of our parks. This year, you will see a new presence in our five most heavily used parks –Lakewood Neighborhood Safety Specialists, are now working as park ambassadors in those locations to provide additional capacity, helping ensure safety and a welcoming presence.
Similar “ambassador” programs that have elements of service and safety work have been implemented across the country and locally by various cities, wards, neighborhoods, and/or community development corporations, including at least a half dozen in Cuyahoga County. The ambassador model uses trained and easily recognizable personnel to maintain a stable, friendly, non-hostile presence in parks while also using principles to identify and report potential issues or concerns before they arise or escalate.
The ambassadors’ scope of work aligns with our efforts in Lakewood to provide innovative safety services in addition to a traditional uniformed officer presence to maintain and increase safety in our city. Leadership at the Lakewood Police Department has been involved in helping us fine tune the parameters of this program to ensure its success and a seamless partnership between our officers and our ambassadors. Through this new program, we can continue to make the highest and best use of City dollars, providing a presence in parks while allowing our officers to focus on specific police work.
Our Lakewood Neighborhood Safety Specialists are outfitted in purple and gold and present during warm weather months in Lakewood, Madison, Cove, Kauffman, and Wagar parks, seven days a week during peak hours. They will traverse the parks on foot and bicycle, and their duties include: being on the lookout for (and serving as a deterrent to) problematic behavior and activity; answering questions for and welcoming park patrons; helping to keep our parks clean; and reporting potential public works or security issues to City staff or safety forces when needed.
The Neighborhood Safety Specialists program is a pilot this year, done through a contract with Block-by-Block, the company that provide ambassadors to other local clients. We will evaluate the outcomes of the pilot after the season wraps to determine effectiveness and how to proceed in the future.
As you venture out into our wonderful Lakewood parks this year, keep an eye out for our new Neighborhood Safety Specialists – please take the time to say “hello,” get to know these friendly ambassadors, and welcome them to our community.