Park rangers to patrol downtown
The McMinnville Downtown Association has authorized spending $10,000 to cover the cost of the patrols over the summer tourist season, under an agreement negotiated with the McMinnville Police Department and McMinnville Parks and Recreation Department.
The association is concerned that loitering, littering, panhandling, tagging and reckless pack behavior are making the downtown area unattractive to tourists and locals visiting popular Third Street.
“We feel this is the perfect partnership with the city to ensure public safety downtown,” said MDA Manager Cassie Sollars. “The rangers will be ambassadors as well, assisting tourists and residents alike when asked for directions and other questions.”
Park rangers receive training through the police department. Their main tool is persuasion, but they are authorized to write citations for selected violations, including biking or boarding on the sidewalk and minor in possession of alcohol or tobacco, when the situation warrants.
“The park rangers don’t take the place of police officers,” said Capt. Dennis Marks. “We will still have officers patrolling downtown. But the rangers give us more eyes and ears to catch problems sooner.”
The rangers will be equipped with two-way radios, enabling them to summon police backup when necessary. They will begin adding the downtown core to their patrol rounds this weekend.
“Our police department has always been responsive to calls downtown, but this program adds an extra presence without adding too much to the city’s budget during this pilot year,” Sollars said.
The idea of deploying park rangers had been raised at downtown association meetings in the past.
“We anticipate that the positive presence of these rangers in the downtown area will provide assistance to tourists and downtown visitors, help maintain a welcoming environment in the downtown area, encourage compliance with local rules and provide additional eyes and ears to assist the police department in serving the downtown are,” Marks said.
One or two rangers will patrol during the daytime and evening hours. Patrols may be augmented during festivals or events.
The program runs from June to September. It will continue to serve the local park system as well.