A group of women gathered on Commercial Street Tuesday morning to organize volunteers to take responsibility for the boardwalk. Organized by former Nevada City Council member Reinette Senum and downtown merchant Shawna James, the meeting aimed to brainstorm solutions to problems associated with the boardwalk.
Despite significant opposition from some members of the community, in January the Nevada City Council voted to allow the boardwalk to remain in place for one more year.
Future approval will be dependent on members of the community stepping up to help regulate behavioral issues that have generated complaints including smoking, drug use and vandalism.
“There really is just a handful of people ruining it,” James said. “If they know that someone is here every day, they either aren’t going to hang out here or they’re going to clean their act up.”
Part of the strategy proposed for the Sidekicks involves leveraging the positive power of peer pressure to enforce social norms, encourage good behavior and reduce the number of complaints received by the city.
“You want to approach them as a friend, because then they respect you,” James said.
That method makes it possible to effectively communicate expectations without the need for confrontation or intervention from law enforcement. James and Senum hope it will improve the boardwalk’s social environment without using tactics that leave anybody feeling pushed out.
“They’re used to that,” James said. “They’re used to being pushed out everywhere.”
Instead, they hope to create a social environment in which participants self-regulate to discourage vandalism, smoking on streets or sidewalks in violation of Nevada City law, and openly using or selling illegal drugs — based solely on the understanding that bad behavior could lead to the boardwalk’s removal next year.
The Sidekicks are recruiting volunteers to sign up for morning or evening shifts during which they will address these issues on an individual basis before things get out of hand.
They’re also working on a program of activities including music, board games and farm-to-table events, possibly even bringing a seamstress to help repair clothing.
The group’s organizers are also looking for creative and effective ways to deal with problems stemming from drug use and addiction.
“You’ll see drug dealers from out of town stake this place out,” said Reinette Senum. “The most powerful thing is to let them know you’re watching.”
Senum went on to relay an anecdote in which she recently found several individuals recreationally consuming nitrous oxide in a vehicle nearby.
After an unsuccessful confrontation, she used her smartphone to photograph the vehicle’s license plate. That prompted the vehicle’s occupants to leave the area.
The Boardwalk Sidekicks Team hopes to organize a strong presence during holidays, especially Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving.
They’re also hoping to have the team in place and functioning in time for the marijuana harvest season — which brought a large number of trimmers to the area in 2013. That population is believed to have contributed to negative perceptions of the boardwalk held by some members of the community.
“This is a social experiment,” Senum said. “We have not had a commons for so long, we don’t know how to relate to each other any longer. It’s very dangerous, and that’s something that we’re trying to change.”
To find out more about the boardwalk, members of the community are invited to contact Senum and James via Facebook or email James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact staff writer Dave Brooksher, call 530-477-4230 or email email@example.com.