Police, groups reach out with park eventsPublic Safety in the Parks events are meant to build connections
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
If you want to build trust and goodwill in a neighborhood, a free root beer float on a hot June night isn’t a bad place to start.
That was the approach Rosemount police, firefighters and other community groups took last week in the Rosemount Woods neighborhood, and Beth Richtsmeier, the police officer behind the event, was happy with the results. She had some good conversations with residents. A representative of the Rosemount Area Athletic Association found a family interested in signing their kids up for soccer. There was even a fire hose for the kids to run through.
“I was happy with what showed up for a quick, less than a week to put together,” Richtsmeier said. “It was a super hot day. I think if I worked all day I would have sat in my house in air conditioning.”
Rosemount police and firefighters held similar public safety in the parks events four years ago, but it wasn’t always easy to draw a crowd. So, when Richtsmeier was assigned to attend meetings of a community leaders group recently in place of retired police chief Gary Kalstabakken, she saw an opportunity. The group of elected officials, school administrators and others meets monthly to talk about needs in the community, and Richtsmeier offered them a chance to get some first-hand knowledge. And, Richtsmeier reasoned, the more people there were standing around in a park, the more likely neighbors would be to come see what was going on.
“The goal of this group and the goal of public safety was good PR, just kind of connecting with the community,” Richtsmeier said. “(Residents) could ask about speeding. They could ask questions that they maybe want to ask an officer. I wasn’t busy. They had my attention.”
Cub Foods donated root beer for the floats, Fairview Clinic donated ice cream and Lighthouse Christian Church provided a trailer from which to serve them. There was a drawing at the end of the night for kids’ bike helmets.
The idea was to keep things casual – give people a reason to show up, and don’t pressure them with new programs or new ideas. Parks and recreation workers were there to play games with the kids who showed up, and before the night was done the firefighters on hand pulled out the fire hose so kids could both spray the water and cool off in the biggest sprinkler they’d ever run through.
Richtsmeier started with Rosemount Woods because it’s an area that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention. There are a lot of kids in the neighborhood, but with Highway 3 to cross it’s hard for them to get to the Rosemount Family Resource Center for services like homework help. 360 Communities, which operates programs at the resource center, had representatives at last week’s gathering and there was talk of bringing some of those programs to Rosemount Woods.
“Rosemount Woods is such a high population of children,” Richtsmeier said. “I’ve always thought they could benefit from something like the resource center does.”
Last week’s event is the first of three planned Public Safety in the Parks events this summer. Richtsmeier plans to hold a second this month at Jaycee Park and one in August in the northern part of the city.