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Seattle’s Downtown Park Rangers

An article in the Seattle Times describes the city’s attempt to enliven its downtown parks by introducing seven park rangers, “functioning as part security guards, part social workers,” in ten parks in and near downtown.

Rangers patrol in pairs between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m……They begin their shifts by rousing homeless people. The rangers ask if they need help and remind them that they’re not allowed to camp there, but they don’t chase them out of the parks….

Daily reports filed by the rangers are packed with “positive contact” incidents, such as offering advice about finding shelter, giving directions to tourists or making conversation with regular park visitors. On July 4, a group of young people at Freeway Park taught Hecht an urban jungle-gym stunt, which he “was able to successfully complete to a cheering crowd of youth,” he wrote.

The jury is still out on if the $462,000 effort has been successful. (We’ll be looking for more news here.) In judging its effect, however, one useful tool would be a usership survey to determine if more people are using the parks – looking both at the numbers and the comments from intercept interviews in the parks. Whatever the case, the city is taking an active role to create vibrant public spaces in its core — a challenge that many others face.

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