City council would be wise to continue a downtown pilot project next spring which has reaped rewards, a retiring councillor says.
Larry Pimm, who hangs up his council spurs this fall after 27 years of community service, says the ambassador program has met and exceeded expectations.
“I’m very pleased. It’s been a very positive influence in the downtown.
“It’s been well received.
“In fact, it’s one of the best things we’ve done for a long time,” Pimm said Sunday.
Four Canadian Corps of Commissionaire members started strolling the streets in June and have assisted tourists from as far away as the Netherlands Australia, England, says ambassador Keith Dawson, who along with Jerry Germain took a break Friday during a shift.
Dressed in red vests and red cowboy hats they assist tourists and locals alike to discover what they need in the city’s downtown.
The City of Red Deer ambassadors program is a $50,000 pilot project approved by city council on May 17 in partnership with the Red Deer Downtown Business Association.
“It’s a real no brainer (to continue) because it’s been so successful,” Pimm said.
“It’s been successful because of the personalities doing it,” he added.
Wendy Cranston, who runs a small food shop near the downtown core said the ambassadors make a difference.
“Just seeing them around attracts attention because of their red hats and vest.
“They’ve all been truly nice to work with because anyone can go up to them and chat if they’re seeking directions or just want to talk,” she said.
Pimm said if anyone needed advice or help they would feel comfortable approaching them because of their welcoming attitude.
Germain said the ambassadors will initiate chats with people and give them one of the Red Deer pins they have to hand out.
They don’t have a defined route but focus on the core which also takes them to their perimeters.
The perimeter is from 43rd Avenue to 53rd Avenue and from Taylor Drive to 47th Street.
Both have extensive backgrounds dealing with the public.
Germain worked with Telus as a technician and then in corporate sales in British Columbia.
Dawson lived all over Alberta during his 35 years with Northwestern Utilities — now ATCO.
The four men have taken history tours with Michael Dawe, curator of history for the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery, to improve their historical knowledge.
Germain said they also made a point of going into each business and community organization downtown to become better acquainted with everything the downtown offers.
“People see the red coats and hats and inquire ask who we are,” Dawson said.
“We tell them we’re promoting the downtown area and are trying to make it a safe place to shop and visit,” Dawson added.
Germain said the vast majority of people living downtown just prefer to live downtown.
“We haven’t had anything negative at all,” he added.
He said some notions that downtown is an unsafe isn’t true.
“The people down here are for the vast majority of time welcoming and friendly,” Germain said.
They average five to six km of walking each shift. The ambassadors work every day, rain or shine.
The program is set to run until Thanksgiving.