Block party seen as way for students, neighbors to connect

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Branden Yates spent Thursday trying to connect.

The president of the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate was one of the forces behind a block party in Randall Park.

“I feel like there was a need for students and community members to come together, since we all live in the same neighborhood,” Yates said to WEAU 13 News on Thursday. “We know that it's about 85% rentals and 15% homeowners, and I think this is just a great opportunity for us to come together as one community, one neighborhood, get to know each other. So if there are any problems that arise in the future, hopefully this is a proactive step to help alleviate that.”

Understanding who now lives in the neighborhood has come with working through past perceptions.

"From the stories I've heard, the neighborhood was a lot worse – as far as vandalism, destruction ... those kinds of things – as a result of college parties before I moved in,” Lauren Lierman, the president of the Historical Randall Park Neighborhood, said to WEAU 13 News on Thursday. “It seems like every year it's been getting better."

The latest step started earlier this year, when concern was raised over proposed changes to Eau Claire’s "Public Good Order" ordinance, including fines for public intoxication and public disruption.

The city council instead chose to form a task force to look at another way, but bringing people together to talk about this at the start was not an easy task.

"When I originally went to those neighborhood associations, they were a little bit, you know, offset because a college student was there,” Yates said. “But, then, I think, once you eloquently elaborate, you know, that we're not just here to all get drunk. We want to build a community, and I think we can create a culture change by having students feel like they're part of that community."

Changes to the ordinance now focus on being excessively intoxicated in public and likely to cause harm. With those modifications, events like Thursday’s block party work to keep all sides well connect.

"They really want to change the, I guess, the perception that students are not good neighbors and can't be good neighbors,” Lt. Jay Dobson with the UW-Eau Claire Police Department, said to WEAU 13 News on Thursday “Events like this, I think really help solidify that that philosophy."

"I'm always so hopeful when I see what student senate and these UWEC students are doing and the fact that we can come together like this and really bond over it is fantastic," Lierman said.