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As Farmington works to become an outdoor recreation destination, the new park ranger program is intended to add a sense of safety

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FARMINGTON — Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe expressed satisfaction with the newly implemented park ranger program after Sgt. Roque Velarde presented the first report to the City Council on Oct. 15 during a council work session.

“I think it’s been very positive,” Hebbe said.

The park ranger program allows the police to have a uniformed presence in downtown Farmington and in parks, including along the river trails. While the park rangers wear uniforms and have special training, they are not police officers.

The Farmington City Council authorized hiring six park rangers earlier this year. The Farmington Police Department has hired five of those positions and is in the process of filling the sixth position. Four of them have completed training, and, for the past two weeks, have been on the job without the supervision of the department’s bicycle patrol.

These park rangers wear bright yellow, making them easy to see in the parks and the downtown. They can provide information to tourists about upcoming events or local attractions. They also meet with business owners downtown to discuss concerns and they provide assistance to homeless people or people who are inebriated.

The park rangers are also authorized to enforce certain city ordinances.

The five rangers hired by the city come from a variety of backgrounds. One worked for the National Park Service at various parks across the country. Another transferred from animal control and one has a law enforcement background. Another previously worked in landscaping and the final one is retired from the U.S. Army.

“We’ve got a really great group of people,” Velarde told the City Council.

They are required to attend at least two community events each week and to ride the bus at least twice each week. For example, one ranger plans to attend the history walk in downtown Farmington this week. The park rangers will also host events like coffee in the park, or guided walks.

The Farmington City Council was overwhelmingly supportive of the new program.

“We recognized that there were areas where we wanted to bolster up the perception of safety and we wanted to have individuals in the community who were there for community service reasons and also to provide immediate contact for individuals who didn’t feel safe,” said Mayor Nate Duckett. “And I think in working with the business owners downtown we’re going to create that real positive environment not only for them but for the residents who want to be in downtown, who want to shop that area, and the visitors that we want to come downtown.”

Councilor Linda Rodgers said she has seen a significant decrease in calls and complaints from the downtown business owners, which she credited in part to the park ranger program.

“We’re utilizing our resources effectively and wisely to expand in such a way that we can help the community,” said Councilor Janis Jakino.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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