Farmington to launch park ranger program this year
FARMINGTON — A pilot program to have park rangers in the downtown and several Farmington parks is anticipated to begin in July, according to Mayor Nate Duckett.
The City Council approved the pilot program during its meeting Tuesday evening at Farmington City Hall.
The program is expected to cost a little more than $620,000 its first year and about $407,000 annually in subsequent years.
The park rangers will be tasked with walking or bicycling through priority parks as well as the downtown. They will interact with business owners downtown and with residents and visitors using the city trails, parks and lake.
The six park rangers will not be police officers, however they will provide a uniformed presence in downtown Farmington as well as along the river trail system and at Brookhaven and Brookside parks as well as Lake Farmington.
Farmington Complete Streets Project Manager Sherry Roach said she is excited about the program because it means additional resources for downtown without taking away from existing resources. Two of the park rangers will patrol downtown.
Duckett said one of the initiatives the city hoped to address when it passed an increased gross receipts tax rate last year was safety concerns. He said one of the main concerns he has heard community members voice since he was first elected to the City Council in 2014 is the perceived lack of safety, especially in the downtown and parks.
The city will use the Community Transformation and Economic Diversification fund, which was created by the increased tax rate, to pay for the program.
Duckett said the program is an example of the council’s dedication to address an ongoing community concern.
In addition, Duckett said the program will help as Farmington works to promote outdoor recreation and invests in its downtown.
One of Farmington’s recent success stories in terms of developing outdoor recreation attractions was the lake. The city opened the lake for swimming in 2016 and it soon became a popular summer destination.
Duckett anticipates the lake will continue to gain popularity. He said the city is installing shade structures this summer for people who visit the lake.
The safety initiative is also important because of the investment the city is making into downtown, Duckett said.
Farmington will be starting a more than $5 million renovation project this year to make the downtown more pedestrian friendly and to revitalize the area.
The city will hire the new park rangers, which will not be paid as much as regular police officers.
“This doesn’t take away from the normal patrol officers,” Duckett said.
While the park rangers will not be police officers, Duckett said the program could be used to recruit new officers. He described it as an opportunity for people interested in a career in law enforcement.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.