Documented by Matthew Carnero-Macias
Here’s what you need to know
- The rollout of the Park Ranger Program generated a wide range of opinions and suggestions during the workshop, especially regarding the uniform development and role. Community members, city staff and commissioners all offered unique perspectives. Noteworthy takeaways from the workshop were the employment of four additional park rangers by January, which will expand the department personnel to 20. Since the program started in 2023 more than 100 candidates have been interviewed. On Nov. 8 there will be more interviews. Training lasts 400 hours.
- Phase 2 of outreach for the newly proposed senior activity center is ongoing. Community engagement meetings are scheduled for Nov. 7, 8, 14, and 15.
- The Parks, After School, Recreation and Community Services Programs (PARCS) fiscal 2025 Budget Build public hearing consisted of an overview presentation, public comment on expenditures and actions related to city council recommendations. Before the hearing, the commission received a presentation with an overview of fiscal year 2023 operations and capacity.
- After the PARCS workshop and hearing on current operations and future budget building, how will the commission and city staff make data accessible to the public?
- What does the breakdown of city budget appropriations look like?
- How can the commission and city staff ensure equitable practices are established and executed?
- Are other cities in the county besides Fresno underfunded or exceedingly invested in?
The Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission meeting was hosted on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023.
Commissioners present were Chair Kimberly McCoy, Vice Chair Jon Dohlin, Commissioner Scott Miller, Commissioner Mona Cummings, Commissioner Jose Leon-Barraza, Commissioner Kelly Kucharski and Commissioner Laura Ward. Commissioner Harman Singh was absent.
One vacant seat remains.
- Grant guidelines for the Measure P Arts Access Fund will be presented to the city council on Thursday, Nov. 2.
- The Cultural Arts Plan will be also presented to the city council on Thursday, Nov. 2.
- Plans for the construction of a dog park designated for small dogs at Al Radka Park are forthcoming.
- Throughout November, community engagement meetings are scheduled to discuss the newly proposed senior center. These community outreach meetings are taking place on Nov. 7, 8, 14, and 15.
- During the Park Ranger Program workshop, several items were addressed.
- Staff are anticipating full staffing of 20 park rangers by January.
- Interviews are scheduled for Nov. 8.
- Park Rangers are assigned to policing districts and work under the supervision of police staff; however they are not sworn law enforcement officers therefore, they’re “prohibited from engaging in anything that may cause undue harm to themselves or the public.”
- To ensure efficient communication and collaboration across the two departments, monthly check-in meetings are established.
- Duties and responsibilities include but are not limited to visibility, identification/reporting of crimes, writing of citations and community engagement.
- One community member showed support for the proposed new ranger uniforms and encouraged further support from the commission.
- Leon-Barraza said he wants to ensure the commission and staff are doing their best to guarantee the public is getting a good return on their investment per Measure P. His recommendation is to have the park ranger uniforms exemplify public safety, parks, recreation and green space. He also commented on the role the police department takes in the design of parks and public spaces.
- Leon-Barraza’s final comment on the program addressed the cultural awareness training. He expressed the challenge is learning about Fresno’s diverse cultural heritage.
- “As far as designing facilities, that is not an area where we’ve proactively engaged in,” said Police Chief Paco Balderrama in his response to Leon-Barraza’s comment. “When you are going to live in a city that’s considered the ninth-most diverse city in America, you better have some cultural training, some understanding of the many communities that live in your city.”
- He added that this is a part of the community engagement component of training of 400 hours.
- Miller asked what the delivery of service and patrolling looks like. He inquired as to how rangers are dispatched.
- Balderrama replied that a continuous rotation of rangers patrolling at various parks using insight from community members and law enforcement foresight training is the most efficient method, considering the number of rangers. He informed the commission that 20 park rangers are not enough to adequately cover all the parks in the city.
- Commissioner Jon Dohlin offered an alternative component to the professional development of the park ranger position. He said that transitioning to a law enforcement officer is natural but would like to encourage an environmentalist career pathway grounded in local history and earth science education.
- Kucharski suggested the rangers take ownership of the park and continuously work to improve the infrastructure of parks by making observations and recommending enhancements.
- McCoy informed the commission that she worked on the Measure P campaign, and believes the proposed uniforms are not what was originally outlined in the proposal.
- “We wanted the park rangers to be present in regular clothes, be present like they were attending the park but also be building relationships with the people in the park and be a trusted messenger, not to stand out as some type of authority,” McCoy said.
- She informed the commission that community members outlined a disconnect between the public and the rangers. She wants to ensure rangers are welcoming and encouraging bonds with the public. She said rangers do not necessarily have to be exclusive authority figures but also mentors. One suggestion she made was that rangers remain at parks for months at a time to build trust and security with community members as well as to transfer experiential knowledge to incoming rangers.
- The PARCS workshop received ample deliberation among the commissioners and staff. There was no public comment at the workshop.
- There are 12 activities and recreational programs.
- PARCS receives grant funding from the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).
- Adaptive Recreation programs “provide safe, enjoyable and inclusive recreation opportunities for all abilities and ages,” according to staff.
- Adult sports include softball, basketball, soccer and cricket for residents age 18 and older all year round.
- After-school programming at 19 centers provides a safe and inclusive environment for residents age 5-17. Programming supports youth development and community-centric activities.
- The aquatics component of programming receives the most participation from community members and offers a low-cost activity.
- Camp Fresno is a family-oriented retreat in the Sierra Nevada mountains that has been operating for decades, with an emphasis on serving disadvantaged youth by providing a gateway to outdoor- and nature-based activity.
- Neighborhood Safety and Community Engagement (ONSCE) aims to reduce violence by partnering with local service providers. The program offers youth and youth adults job training, substance abuse prevention, mental health support, education and housing.
- The science program aims to enhance community knowledge in scientific fields.
- Senior programming is offered at nine locations. Senior programming improves quality of life by fostering community engagement and offering free meals and other residential services.
- Sports, Play, Active Recreation, For Kids (SPARK) is offered at 29 Fresno Unified School District locations to improve health and wellness through fitness education.
- Youth Employment program is a seven-week summer program that provides professional mentorship and prepares residents with career readiness tools.
- Youth sports are recreational opportunities for youth ages 3-15 to engage in team-building and problem-solving exercises via sports and to help them benefit from health and fitness activities.
- The Youth Fee Waiver program provides financial assistance to low-income families and gives low-income youths a chance to participate in recreational programming.
- The fiscal year 2025 budget build process calendar is as follows: Nov. 6 Landscape, Trails, Beautification, and San Joaquin River Parkway Presentation fiscal year 2025 Hearing and Budget Motions, Nov. 20 fiscal year 2025 Hearing & Budget Motions Opportunity to motion prior to the PARCS Department’s budget recommendation to mayor, December 2023 PARCS Department prepares mid-year estimate and any additional budget requests, January.-February PARCS Department prepares budget recommendation to mayor (budget build), March PARCS Department submits budget to budget management system, includes PARCS recommendation for base budget, capital projects and new requests. In May, the mayor presents the fiscal year 2025 budget to City Council, and PARCS presents the mayor’s proposed budget to the Commission, June commission provides a second set of recommendations for Measure P funds to City Council, City Council adopts the budget.
- ID 23-1579 Workshop – Commission comments and suggestions relating to the Park Ranger Program (Fresno Police Department)
- ID 23-1580 Workshop – Overview of PARCS Department’s fiscal year 2024 After School, Recreation and Community Services Programs to inform the fiscal year 2025 budget (PARCS).
- ID 23-1581 Hearing – Actions pertaining to the PARCS Department’s fiscal year 2025 Budget Build as it relates to capital projects; after school, recreation and community services programs; and trails, beautification and the San Joaquin River Parkway 1. Presentation – Overview of the FY 2025 Budget Build process. 2. Receive public comment on expenditures related to the PARCS Department’s fiscal year 2025 budget. 3. Action – Make recommendations to the City Council for adoption of expenditures in connection to the PARCS Department’s fiscal year 2025 budget (PARCS).
- ID 23-1573 Hearing – Receive public input on allocations related to Measure P, updates to the Parks Master Plan and Cultural Arts Plan, and annual PARCS Department budget and capital improvement plans.
“There were about 46 second graders on that planting, and then many families, probably about 20 families present, so it was a wonderful event,” said Commissioner Mona Cummings during her report on a tree planting event at Almy Park. “They not only prepare for the tree planting but the children also prepare research and papers and artwork associated with the value of trees.”
“Now is the ideal time to be having these discussions [because] it gives the department an opportunity to consider including those recommendations,” said Deputy City Manager Jennifer Ruiz. “So I just really want to encourage any of those items that maybe didn’t make it into the budget in the last round, that we can have that discussion during these next few meetings.”
“The investment that the community is making in improving public safety at the parks [and] funding more positions to help is very positive and we have to demonstrate to the community that we’re getting a good return on our investment,” said Commissioner Jose Leon-Barrazaa in his comments on the park ranger program. “I think a lot of it has to do with perception.”
“So much of park use I think can be deepened and enriched by people understanding even some really humble facts about urban nature,” said Commissioner Jon Dohlin during his comments on the park ranger program. “I would hope, too, that we’re also looking into the qualifications and job description for people who are interested in that community-oriented or perhaps urban naturalist-oriented approach to some of this because I think that can also be really valuable.”
“All the parks in Fresno are different, depending on the district that you’re in so, you’re going to have youth, you’re going to have residents, you’re going to have seniors who have a different view of police officers in their community because of the history that has happened in our community,” Chair Kimberly McCoy said regarding the park ranger program.
“The objective is to set the stage so that you have a comprehensive understanding of everything that we’re currently doing so that you can make good, informed recommendations for the fiscal year 25 budget,” said city staff member Edward Chinevere in his presentation of PARCS FY 2025 Budget Building during the public hearing.
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