New downtown Lawrence guides to assist visitors, help keep downtown clean

photo by: Contributed photo

One of the city's new downtown guides cleans a water fountain along Massachusetts Street.

Downtown Lawrence now has new guides to assist visitors and help keep the downtown clean and sanitized.

The City of Lawrence recently created the Downtown Ambassadors pilot program in partnership with Downtown Lawrence Inc. and the local visitors bureau, Explore Lawrence. The guides wear bright orange shirts with the messages “Welcome to Lawrence” and “How can I help?”

A news release from the city states that the guides will provide assistance to downtown visitors, residents and employees, especially as businesses begin reopening during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“The primary goal of the program is to help ensure a clean, safe and welcoming environment for the Downtown Lawrence community,” the release states.

The program is currently staffed by city employees who have been reassigned from other job duties because of the coronavirus and related changes to city operations. Parking Control Supervisor Bradley Harrell said in an email to the Journal-World that currently all the guides are reassigned parking enforcement employees. The city temporarily stopped enforcing overstay parking violations in the downtown in March, and there is not a set date for when enforcement will begin again. However, Harrell said the program is anticipated to continue even when parking enforcement is reinstated and the city could potentially expand the program.

“If the program is deemed successful during this pilot period, we hope to expand the program and potentially utilize volunteers in the future,” Harrell said.

Other cities have also used guides in districts that attract tourists. For example, the River Walk in San Antonio has used guides who can provide directions or answer other questions for visitors. The Lawrence guides were recently trained through the partnership with Downtown Lawrence Inc. and Explore Lawrence, according to an Explore Lawrence announcement. The guides have been trained in Explore Lawrence’s existing Tourism Ambassador program and received additional training specific to the downtown.

The guides have been trained to assist visitors and address cleanliness and other issues in the downtown, according to the release. Specifically, the guides will provide visitors directions to nearby parking and businesses; provide food and retail recommendations; and escort visitors as needed. The guides can also answer questions about the temporary downtown layout that the city put in place last week, which modified parking along Massachusetts Street to create additional space for businesses to conduct outdoor sales or services.

In relation to cleanliness and other issues, the guides will remove litter from sidewalks and streets; disinfect public water fountains and other public fixtures; power-wash sidewalks and concrete planters; and remove stickers, tape and graffiti from parking meters and street lights. Guides will also report nuisance activity or property damage issues. Harrell said that so far no nuisance behavior has been reported since the program started on June 30. If such issues arise, he said guides would report the problem to their direct supervisor, who would determine what course of action is needed.

Currently, Harrell said there are four full-time guides, who also perform tasks for the city outside of the ambassador program as needed. He said generally two guides will be working at any given time. He said the city is collecting data on a daily basis to determine the effectiveness of the program, which will be reviewed on Aug. 1.


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