District adds staff to monitor parks

Local News

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — More and more people are hitting Champaign Parks and now there is staff who will be there to make sure everything is okay.

They will mostly be at some of the more busy parks like Hessel and West Side Park. They are called “Park Ambassadors.” The park district is calling this a trial run, with the aim to also learn more about what people like to do at their parks.

“With that increased use comes some extra need for monitoring of the parks,” says Director of Communications Chelsea Norton. “We want to see how people are using those parks.”

The plan for Park Ambassadors had been brought up before this year, but that extra traffic made the idea more of a priority. Especially because parks have had issues with gatherings being too big for the pandemic.

“Unfortunately there have been quite a few gatherings that have not touched base with us or let us know any of those types of things,” says Norton. “It is important for us to be out there to inform people about the basic procedures to do an event like that.”

If the ambassadors see large gatherings that do not have a permit from them or are bigger than 50 people, they will ask them to follow better health practices. If they do not, they can call the police about improper use of the park.

Champaign-Urbana Public Health says they have not heard many recent complaints about parks, but overall they have seen an increase in large gatherings over the last few weeks. They think the new ambassadors can help curb that.

“We really believe it’s a very good intitative,” says C-UPHD Deputy Adminstrator Awais Vaid. “We encourage that and I think it will have a good impact on some of the compliance issues we’ve had.”

The ambassadors will also be able to collect data about how the parks are used. It could end up impacting how they evolve in the future.

“It’s nice to have someone out there who can kind of check out park use and report back to us and let us know what are peoplle doing,” says Norton. “That can then can then actually help for future plans. Do we need more picnic tables? Do we need more trashcans? Things like that.”

At this time the positions are just seasonal. The park district is going to evaluate over the winter and see if the trial run was successful enough to bring around for another year.

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