Living among students sometimes a strain for Randall Park District homeowners

Story by Bridget Cooke, Staff Writer

The off-campus student living area, generally thought to cover the Water Street neighborhood’s numerous blocks, is not home to only UW-Eau Claire students. There are also older residents in the area, some of whom have lived in their houses for decades.

This can sometimes make the living situation uncomfortable for both sides.

Senior Sam Genung, a student who lives on Fifth Avenue and Lake Street, said bonfires caused issues during the summer, including an incident in which her neighbors called the police.

“They were making me feel like an intruder,” she said. “I can definitely see where it could be a little annoying for them, but then again they did choose to live there.”

Genung said her neighbors are some of the only residents surrounding them that don’t live in student housing. She also said the relationship with her neighbors has gotten better after she apologized.

“I would just say to other people to talk to them, make peace, and let them know that you’re not out to bother them or make them upset or anything,” Genung said.

Eau Claire Executive Director of Communications Mike Rindo also serves as a community liaison to neighborhood groups like the Historic Randall Park Neighborhood Association. He said the issues they have mostly encountered between residents and students involve house parties,
parking and vandalism.

“I would say one of the main factors is excessive drinking and the behavior then that results from that,” he said.

The university has taken steps to better connect with neighborhoods by budgeting for a new representative from the Center for Alcohol Studies and Education who will serve as a mediator for issues between residents.

President of the Historic Randall Park Neighborhood Association Helene Smiar has been a part of the organization for several years and also said she has noticed a decline of bad behavior in her neighborhood.

During her time with the association, she has met many different students and said avoiding conflict is a simple matter of getting along.

“Students just have to understand they’re in a neighborhood,” she said. “You make friends with the neighbor. It doesn’t mean you become best friends, but you build up a rapport.”

Smiar said the Randall Park statue’s continued degradation is also a sore spot for local residents.

However, she said that students are a great resource to her. She and her husband recently asked for help with moving large furniture and her practice of welcoming new students to the neighborhood with a plate of homemade brownies usually creates a
respectful connection.

But Smiar said alcohol and vandalism have been large parts of the problem, from urinating on someone’s potted plants to vomiting in a lawn.

“I think students are different when they drink,” she said. “These are good, decent people 99 percent of the time.”

Smiar said the association has plans to bring both sides together through volunteer work in gardens and public events with food and entertainment.