Some fresh faces are patrolling the Kuna Greenbelt. They’re wearing law enforcement shirts and driving a police golf cart, but they aren’t police officers.
They’re part Kuna’s new Greenbelt Patrol, an Ada County Sheriff’s Office volunteer program.
The sheriff’s office, which provides contract policing services to the city of Kuna, launched the Greenbelt Patrol’s Kuna program this month. The program exists in other cities in the Treasure Valley, but it’s the first time Kuna will have its own Greenbelt Patrol volunteers.
Kuna’s Greenbelt Patrol has two volunteers: Max Kirkbride and Ken Kaae. Their job is to patrol Kuna’s most popular park, to be the eyes and ears of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office and be a community resource.
Jon McDaniel, Kuna’s police chief, said the Ada County Sheriff’s Office can’t sufficiently police Kuna’s growing population without help from the community. That help includes volunteers, like the Greenbelt Patrol, and community members who are willing to work with law enforcement.
“With a town of right around 24,000, we want to spread that message as much as we can: that we’re all in this together and we need everybody to be willing to call if they see some suspicious activity,” McDaniel said. “That’s how we keep this community safe, we all work together.”
Greenbelt Patrol volunteers will travel up and down the Kuna Greenbelt, looking for suspicious activity or helping people in need, whether that means explaining the greenbelt’s rules or providing a restaurant recommendation to visitors.
“Part of our training program is: Be a positive resource for the community to use, in addition to being the eyes and ears for us,” McDaniel said.
Kuna Greenbelt comprises nearly two miles of walking paths, green space and other recreational opportunities, such as a frisbee golf course, skatepark and splash pad. It runs along Indian Creek.
Open from dusk until dawn, the greenbelt sees the most activity of Kuna’s eight public parks, according Bobby Withrow, Kuna’s parks director. Bernie Fisher Park, which will also be patrolled by the greenbelt volunteers, is a close second, Withrow said.
The Greenbelt Patrol is not a result of growing crime at the park, McDaniel said. “We just know, as there’s more and more users, it’s a good idea to have more eyes out there,” he said.
The Greenbelt Patrol will bring no additional cost to the city. In July, the city allocated $37,000 from the FY 2019 budget to the Parks Department to purchase a utility vehicle and one or two golf carts. The Greenbelt Patrol will use the golf carts in addition to the city’s use of the carts for special events.
Volunteers on patrol will use either the golf carts or an Ada County Sheriff patrol bicycle, McDaniel said. They will carry a cell phone to call law enforcement, a first-aid kit and a throw bag, to be used in the event of a water emergency.
Volunteers receive the same background checks and some of the same training as Ada County Sheriff deputies. They aren’t required to complete physical fitness training, however. Kirkbride, one of the two current volunteers, was happy about that.
“At 70 years old, the only thing I run to is dinner and the bathroom,” he said.
Kirkbride, 69, of Boise, was a volunteer with the city of Eagle’s Greenbelt Patrol. When he heard Kuna was starting a program he decided to start volunteering here — it’s a shorter drive from his south Boise home.
On Monday, Kirkbride’s first day, a greenbelt visitor approached McDaniel and informed him that a young man was driving a motorcycle on a greenbelt path, which is not allowed. In that situation, Kirkbride would call Ada County dispatch and report the incident, including the motorcyclist’s last-known location and appearance, McDaniel said.
Minutes later, while driving the golf cart, Kirkbride approached two young Kuna residents walking a puppy on the greenbelt. In that situation, the patrolman stopped and grabbed his roll of “junior deputy” stickers for the kids. And, of course, he pet the puppy.
Kirkbride, now retired, was a registered nurse for two decades. He also was a salesman for a large company. His new volunteer gig will benefit from skills learned in both of his careers.
“It’s public relations,” Kirkbride said. “You’re there to be helpful. If I need somebody with authority, the sheriff’s department is a call away. I hopefully don’t have to do that. You’re just a service to your fellow citizens. That’s (the way) I look at this: this is just a service project.”
Working as a nurse, Kirkbride said it was always better to err on the side of caution, to call for help or an emergency response, rather than trying to solve a potential emergency himself.
That’s the way he plans to work as a Greenbelt Volunteer.
“If there’s any kind of hint of illegal activity or something that’s going to put me in jeopardy I’m going to be on that phone,” he said.
McDaniel said the sheriff’s office is looking for more volunteers. He hopes to recruit between eight and 10. For information on how to volunteer, visit adacounty.id.gov/sheriff/volunteer-program.