By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
POTTSTOWN >> The Hill School and the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority (PDIDA) are providing safety in numbers while also in transit with the Mobile Ambassador Project.
The eight-week pilot program began in November with community members volunteering to join a 2-mile bike ride covering the downtown area and the neighborhood surrounding The Hill School. The mission of the program is to create safe, clean spaces in Pottstown. The Mobile Ambassador Project, M.A.P. for short, will have an official launch in the spring.
Twila Fisher, The Hill School’s manager of community and economic development, said the mobile safety program came about through talks she had with PDIDA Main Street Manager Sheila Dugan. Fisher said Dugan mentioned that downtown businesses were requesting some kind of presence in the area for safety reasons.
“PDIDA has been trying to get an ambassador program here for a couple of years,” Dugan said, adding that limited resources made it difficult.
She said the partnership with The Hill School allowed for combined efforts and there were already bikes available to use from the Hobart’s Run initiative. The revitalization project is through The Hill School, and like the ambassador program, it includes promoting safety in the area through bike rides.
Hobart’s Run is about 600 parcels of land that surround The Hill School campus and includes Edgewood Cemetery. Fisher was hired by The Hill School to work on the initiative ,which includes the goal to create a safe, clean and inclusive community. Fisher said those who participated in the community bike rides looked for quality of life violations and other safety concerns residents may have.
“Anything that we can work with the borough on as far as reporting broken windows or if there’s a lot of loitering in a certain area,” she said.
Fisher said it really helps to have a “visible presence” in neighborhoods when it comes to helping people feel safer. She said since Hobart’s Run is such a small area, expanding the bike rides to include downtown created a longer and more extensive route. Dugan said the hope is to have the ambassador program be the “eyes and ears of the community.”
“We (Fisher and I) both feel very confident that as people get to see other people out there riding together, then more people will join in,” Dugan said.
In the spring, the mobile program will include runners and walkers in addition to bicyclists. Dugan said she realized that many high school students are already running through town as part of track or cross country so it seemed liked a great idea to invite them to do the same for the Mobile Ambassador Project.
Dugan said in addition to safety, the program is meant to promote community engagement. She said PDIDA wants to provide opportunities for health and wellness such as it did for the farmers market that was launched downtown this past summer. She said the aim is to get people healthier mentally, spiritually and physically.
“The Mobile Ambassador Project certainly fits into that,” Dugan said.
For more information about the Mobile Ambassador Project, visit the website bit.ly/2hZibUZ. For more about the Hobart’s Run initiative, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HobartsRun or the website hobartsrunpottstown.org.