Colleagues, I received this message a few days ago on Facebook. The writer poses and excellent question, related to the park and trail a few miles north of where I live, where a 17 year old was murdered recently; a registered sex offender has been arrested, and has also been implicated in another young woman's murder. 

How can we work together so people are free and safe as they enjoy a community's natural areas? Citizen patrols on bike and horseback? Many people have considered the Lake Hodges trails their "personal natural area," but of course predators can use the space too...

This is, of course, a legitimate concern that needs addressing. I'm thinking that, although violent crime has fallen in recent years (dramatically fallen in San Diego), these types of crimes will continue, and we should be able to provide suggestions. She suggests citizen patrols on bike or horseback. As I've thought about this, I've wondered about encouraging other actions. 

For example, this paragraph appears in something I'm writing: 

"....we may need a role rebalancing for domestic pets and urban wildlife. My own experience as former companion of the late great Rex the Wonder Dog, an Australian Shepherd, suggests that many breeds are underemployed. If dogs were given an expanded role as protective hiking companions for young people and adults – in those areas where they’re welcome – many people who might not otherwise enjoy outdoor experiences would feel comfortable going for outings in canyons, woods and other natural areas."

Can we suggest other ideas? I can compile these, perhaps in a blog or other form. I'm thinking about adults and children.

Rich

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Terrific post, Laura -- thanks for sharing that! I hope other parents in your neighborhood soon follow your lead!

Laura Lamarre Anderson said:
I have two daughters - ages 9 and 11 - and I let them ride their bikes in the neighborhood and go to the two local parks we are fortunate to have within easy reach. They can even go to the edge of the local lake where they met an energetic young turtle a few weeks ago. When they go, they take the "adventure phone," an extra cell phone we keep so the kids can be reached when we need them (and they can reach us if anything goes wrong). We've had some raised eyebrows, sidelong glances, and accusing questions occasionally. Some parents have asked if I am afraid for my kids because "it's not like when we were kids" - to which I always answer, "yes, statistically its safer, aren't we fortunate!"
But, the issue for some parents has been feeling as if I am failing to take responsibility for my own children, leaving them out there to be tended to by others. To which I say, "true." Well, not giving up my responsibility, but certainly relying on others to take a share in raising my kids. When I am at the park, or anywhere, I take an interest in the other children and families there and "butt in" if I think something has gone wrong (helped find lost articles, called a Mom for a hurt child, offered an extra snack, etc). If my children are making a bad choice, I expect other parents to call them on it. If they look lost or afraid, I am grateful to the grown-up who checks in with them.
Sometimes, I think we're too afraid of each other - afraid of offending someone, of butting in where we don't belong. We don't fear cougars where I live, we fear disapproving neighbors and awkward encounters. The outdoors of my children's roaming is not isolated - in our neighborhood you are always within ear shot of somebody - but there is still fear. If we all just pay attention to each other, rather than feel like "it not my business" we would all feel safer.
I've lived in this neighborhood for 3 years now. As I write this, I am renewed in my determination to become an active builder of community.
A truly eloquent statement, Laura, and true.

Laura Lamarre Anderson said:
I have two daughters - ages 9 and 11 - and I let them ride their bikes in the neighborhood and go to the two local parks we are fortunate to have within easy reach. They can even go to the edge of the local lake where they met an energetic young turtle a few weeks ago. When they go, they take the "adventure phone," an extra cell phone we keep so the kids can be reached when we need them (and they can reach us if anything goes wrong). We've had some raised eyebrows, sidelong glances, and accusing questions occasionally. Some parents have asked if I am afraid for my kids because "it's not like when we were kids" - to which I always answer, "yes, statistically its safer, aren't we fortunate!"
But, the issue for some parents has been feeling as if I am failing to take responsibility for my own children, leaving them out there to be tended to by others. To which I say, "true." Well, not giving up my responsibility, but certainly relying on others to take a share in raising my kids. When I am at the park, or anywhere, I take an interest in the other children and families there and "butt in" if I think something has gone wrong (helped find lost articles, called a Mom for a hurt child, offered an extra snack, etc). If my children are making a bad choice, I expect other parents to call them on it. If they look lost or afraid, I am grateful to the grown-up who checks in with them.
Sometimes, I think we're too afraid of each other - afraid of offending someone, of butting in where we don't belong. We don't fear cougars where I live, we fear disapproving neighbors and awkward encounters. The outdoors of my children's roaming is not isolated - in our neighborhood you are always within ear shot of somebody - but there is still fear. If we all just pay attention to each other, rather than feel like "it not my business" we would all feel safer.
I've lived in this neighborhood for 3 years now. As I write this, I am renewed in my determination to become an active builder of community.
Wow, Laura. I echo Rich and Ken. That's a great post and sentiment. Very well put. I think it speaks to another trend that is contributing to Nature-Deficit Disorder and that is our relative isolation from others in our communities. Almost everyone is atomized -- afraid of one another and also lacking simple tools by which to cooperate and all have a richer experience. Both parents and children suffer in this scenario. Luckily there are nature clubs and individuals like you, whose actions do ripple out to others. It can take a little courage -- I know because I was the one whose daughter rode a bike to school before most others and had some relative freedom to go out and play. Keep at it! (And thank you for being the one in the park who's also watching out for others.)

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