Volunteers sought for new Mount Shasta 'Welcoming Committee'

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta’s Community Services Officer Bill Pierce, Siskiyou Land Trust president Sam Baxter and Sisson Museum board member Jim McChesney help brainstorm ideas for a new Welcoming Committee that will direct tourists in the right direction – and educate transients on appropriate behavior while visiting.

The Mount Shasta Police Department is actively seeking volunteers for a new Welcoming Committee, which will provide useful information to those visiting the city, whether they be tourists or transients.

The group of volunteers will be coordinated by Community Services Officer Bill Pierce. They will be able to address questions, give information and direct visitors to points of interest while they’re visiting Mount Shasta.

The new group is one of the ways the city is trying to deal with an increase in the transient population, said Pierce.

Mount Shasta is a destination for many different kinds of travelers, said Jim McChesney, president of the Sisson Museum’s board of directors, who’s helping brainstorm ideas for the group. A Welcoming Committee – whether the name sticks or is changed to something more suitable – could help spread word of wonderful things to see while visiting, and help law enforcement by being extra sets of ears and eyes, he said.

McChesney called attention to some of the more unpleasant aspects of some transient groups and said the committee could help curb behaviors that upset residents, tourists and merchants.

Committee members would help educate transients about the city’s expectations and what is appropriate while visiting.

“It’s better to be proactive than reactive,” said Sam Baxter, president of Siskiyou Land Trust. He is excited to become one of the first Welcoming Committee volunteers.

Baxter said he wants to reciprocate the kindness and welcome he received when he was new in town five years ago.

He mentioned a group of people who made his transition a pleasure and said volunteering in this capacity is his way of giving back.

Because the volunteers won’t just be roving information centers, but also targeting the more unpleasant behaviors of some transients, they’ll be trained in how to address various complaints, such as loitering, and when to call the police, said Pierce. Applicants will be required to undergo fingerprinting and a background check.

Similar programs have worked well in places like Sedona, Arizona, where volunteer park rangers act as “city ambassadors” to talk with visitors and merchants, providing accurate visitor information, dealing with complaints and concerns, and dealing with emergencies.

The Welcoming Committee will work hand in hand with the Mount Shasta Police Department’s “Transient Action Plan,” which deals with transients who are causing disturbances in the city.

The plan works like this: transients are contacted and checked for warrants. If they violate an ordinance, they are warned and their names entered into a system. This way, when a citation is issued, the department can be sure proper procedures were followed, said Pierce.

Educating business owners on their rights is another piece of the puzzle.

Officers can only target negative behaviors, not lifestyle choices, but businesses are private property and the police can assist business owners in enforcing their policies, Pierce said.

Transient-related problems

Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce executive director Marie Wells said some local business owners were furious last summer about the increase in transients. She sees transients regularly utilizing the Chamber’s small park, and many come inside to ask for services such as homeless shelters and food distribution.

Mount Shasta Recreation and Parks District Administrator Mike Rodriguez said at the Mount Shasta City Park and Shastice, there have been problems with transients littering, bathing in creeks, pilfering electricity, defecating in inappropriate places, keeping unleashed and unlicensed dogs and generally making people uncomfortable. However, he acknowledges there is little the police can do to “rid” the park of transients and it is for everyone to enjoy.

Might the Welcoming Committee bring more transients to Mount Shasta? Pierce doesn’t know, but he hopes the program might help solve part of the problem for those who love Mount Shasta and want it to be pleasant for all.

To volunteer

If you are interested in volunteering for the Welcoming Committee or want to learn more, call the Mount Shasta Police Department at (530) 926-7540 and ask for Bill.