C4 Group (Crookston Campus Community Connection) conducts forum, gets valuable input from U of M Crookston students

    Crookston Campus Community Connection (C4) gathered once again for a College Town Forum Thursday evening, this time introducing Bike Crookston, its mission and upcoming initiatives. University of Minnesota Crookston students and staff, community leaders, business owners/managers, and the general public met in Bede Ballroom to discuss biking, community needs, and social media.

    Bike Crookston representative Tim Denney told the large crowd their group is planning for more bike routes and a downtown bike repair station, and wondered how they could make walking and biking “more attractive” to UMC students.

    “We want to see a stronger, healthier, more accessible, and more vibrant town,” said Denney.

    Tables of people “voted” to rank, in order, preferences of access in the community and most said, in winter, they prefer to drive, get a ride, or take the bus/taxi, and, in summer, they prefer to walk or ride bike over driving.

    “Some of the walking and biking trails are not very attractive right now,” admitted one UMC student. “At the Walmart crossing there’s no indication of the correct way to go; it’s an interesting game of chicken.”

    “We like to do the loop from the sports center and back to campus, but the sidewalks by AgCountry need updating as they’re a little rough,” said UMC junior Tori Koch. “We would like to see more benches to sit and rest, too.”

    “Rollerblading by Meadows Apartments is hard by the bypass,” she added. “We have to walk through the grass to get back to the bike path.”

    Other discussions led to the need to improve bike access and storage for UMC students, and for more storage options throughout the community. One student mentioned that the Facilities and Safety class on campus makes a shed “almost every year” and that could be one option for bike storage in the future. Another noteworthy comment from a student was that “most” of the gas stations didn’t have working air pumps to allow them to air up their bike tires which they found out while on a bike ride to the Crookston Community Pool for a S.P.A.C.E. movie event.

    Crookston Mayor Wayne Melbye offered other “great” places for students to ride bike like Glacial Ridge and Rydell Refuge, and UMC Director of Diversity and Multicultural Programs Lorna Hollowell said they should plan an organized trip.

    “This is a mom comment, but we all need to remember to wear our bike helmets,” added UMC Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause.

    “Biking for transportation isn’t normalized right now,” added Crookston City Administrator Shannon Stassen. “If it was more normalized people might do it; they might bike to class or to get groceries.”
    
COMMUNITY NEEDS/CONCERNS/ISSUES

    In a “Post-It Note” exercise, the audience listed what they saw as the “greatest needs, concerns, and issues in the Crookston community” on pieces of paper and stuck them to a “sticky wall” sheet that was displayed in the room. Examples of areas of need/concern included social-related, health-related, youth-related, aging-related, family-related, and work-related.

    Here are some of those needs/concerns/issues listed:

    • Better ideas of what’s sold at stores downtown
    • Social place for students besides a bar
    • More late night ride options like Lyft or Uber
    • Evening hours for businesses and restaurants
    • Culture or variety
    • Transportation for students to and from bars on campus
    • Outdoor amenities (free)
    • Positive role models for youth (mentors)
    • More downtown development
    • Make discounts for college students known
    • Arcade, bowling, rollerskating
    • Venues that promote social interaction like coffee shops
    • Food options open until 2:30 or 3 a.m.
    • Lack of recreation and fun opportunities
    • Late night “fun” things to do in Crookston
    • College-type “cool” places open after 9 p.m. like a coffee place
    • Lack of connection between community businesses and college
    • Retention
    • More off-campus apartment availability
    • Feels like campus and town are separate
    • More social opportunities without going to Grand Forks
    • Arts and crafts store needs
    • Creating a sense of ownership/pride in the community
    • Revitalization, especially downtown
    • Better healthcare, not somewhere who will send you home with a life-threatening injury, more knowledgable doctors
    • Winter weather (harsh, isolating)
    • More advertisement of community activities not just campus activities
    • Lyft or Uber or a way to get home when you drink, more Ampride vans :)
    • Better natural areas/parks nearby
    • More active downtown
    • More incentives/advertising for students to work at local businesses within their career field
    • Dry cleaners
    • Day care center
    • Clean show from curbs downtown
    • Community center
    • Truck traffic through town
    • More places to eat
    • Downtown/abandoned buildings
    • Make Crookston a college town, extend hours for restaurants and gas stations
    • Landscape

SOCIAL MEDIA AND CAMPUS, COMMUNITY EVENTS

    In regards to social media, guests were asked how they find out about campus activities and events, if UMC could be on only Instagram or Snapchat which would be preferred, what kinds of content do they (specifically students) engage with most, and how do people find out about local events and activities. They were also asked if there were any local business social media pages they follow, why they follow them, and, if not, what incentives would make them consider following a local business social media page.

    At one table, a UMC student said she finds out about campus events and activities through email, Snapchat (which is used the most), or Google Cal (Calendar) which invites her to respond to whether she will go or not. Other students admitted they don’t necessarily like all the emails they receive for campus-related activities and not many use Google Calendar, but they would be open to it.

    Director of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing, and event MC Andrew Svec asked students if they would remain on the email list (and not unsubscribe) if they received less “spam” email and students didn’t oppose the idea. He added that they are working on coordinating lists of events and, perhaps, sending out one email per week or one every few days rather than multiple emails. Crookston Student Association President Dalton Javner suggested linking events to Google Calendar so it reminds students when they occur, potentially increasing event attendance.

    When asked about Facebook, which most students bluntly admitted they no longer have, they said they don’t like to see all the ads and “just want to see their friends’ cat videos.” One student added that Facebook Live coverage at events “doesn’t give you enough time to get there” rendering it pointless. Another said they won’t watch any video posted that goes over 30 seconds.

    Interestingly, a significant number of guests said they find out about community events and activities from the Crookston Chamber’s Weekly What’s Up emails and social media posts. Others said word-of-mouth from other students was a preferred way to find out about community events rather than the posters hung that contained “too much information” and were “cluttered.”

    One event that most students agreed was a nice community addition was the “Dine Around Town” tour towards the start of the school year. That event had students visiting multiple businesses for free food, coupons and prizes. One student said they didn’t see a lot of advertisement for local business social media pages, but thought the event was fun.

    Wonderful Life Foods co-owner Erin Brule agreed it was a great event, but she saw a lot of students coming in to get their free food item and hurrying out to get to the next place so there wasn’t a lot of time to engage with the students to talk about their social media page and attempt to get them back into their doors. That led the talk to business advertising on campus which Svec reminded everyone there was a no solicitation policy in place to protect students, but that there were areas around campus where they can advertise and they hope to add more locations.