In Brooklyn Park, neighborhoods starting to shape up

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 18, 2014 - 1:08 PM

The city is trying to set up identifiable subsections to improve communication and better connect residents.

Brian Rogers, a longtime Brooklyn Park resident, describes his neighborhood as “quiet and friendly.”

It has a natural area close-to-home, and deer occasionally run through his yard. Neighbors’ children play outside, while a high school marching band can be seen practicing just across the way during the warmer months.

But Rogers remembers a string of home and car break-ins in 2007 that disturbed that feeling of peace and quiet. To counteract that, he and a bunch of his neighbors banded together to “outsmart the burglars,” he said, putting together an e-mail list and creating a related website.

From that effort came the idea of organizing individual neighborhoods. “I was on my driveway, saying, ‘We really need a better way to communicate,’ ” both with each other and the city, Rogers said.

Right now, Brooklyn Park, with the community’s help, is in the process of designating up to 40 neighborhoods, said Josie Shardlow, the city’s neighborhood relations specialist.

In February and March, the city held several “Community Cafes,” meetings at which more than 200 residents offered their suggestions for mapping out neighborhoods. They also came up with names, Shardlow said.

Shardlow instructed people to “think about who they have common interests with, major central gathering places and man-made boundaries that define the larger macro neighborhood,” such as freeways and other major thoroughfares. An easy way to define a neighborhood might be, “Where do you go walk your dog?” she said.

Right now, the 12-member neighborhoods task force, made up of city officials and community members, is s­ynthesizing the comments from the cafes.

But the public still has plenty of opportunities to weigh in. In April and May, the task force will release a preliminary map for public comment, Shardlow said. Afterward, the map will go to the City Council for approval.

The idea behind the initiative is to improve communication between the city and its residents and vice versa.

The city also intends to coordinate various services with the resulting neighborhood boundaries, Shardlow said.

For example, it could mean that residents have a go-to person for code enforcement. “City staff can get to know the character of the neighborhood and have more relationships,” she said.

Getting to know you

Likewise, residents can get acquainted with one other. Already, some neighbors met each other for the first time at the cafes. They socialized and swapped information about everything from running pond associations to neighbors who could use a hand with cleaning up their yard.

“That’s what the next level is all about, giving people the tools and resources to connect with others on the block level,” Shardlow said.

Neighborhoods also provide structure for people who want to be involved in their community, she said.

The initiative isn’t meant to replace the more micro-level cul-de-sac, block or homeowner associations.

People seem to be enthusiastic about naming their neighborhoods, studying plat maps or latching onto local parks or schools or other landmarks, like the Edinburgh USA golf course. The Mississippi River is also being incorporated into some names, she said.

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