Safety concerns at city park top priority for board

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Reports of vandalism, fights and the potential for illegal activity at the city park sparked concern among members of the Greencastle Park Board this week.

Parks and Recreation Director Rod Weinschenk told board members that the activity at Robe-Ann Park has reached a new level in the last two weeks, forcing him to seek the help of law enforcement from the city and county level.

On the Fourth of July, police were called to the park to arrest a man for allegedly fighting with another park visitor, causing that person to be hospitalized, Weinschenk told the Banner Graphic.

At the end of June, another person was arrested for similar acts at the park, Weinschenk said.

Although both instances involved adults, Weinschenk said he is concerned about the children who frequent the park and have had to witness these acts. He hopes more parents will take the responsibility of supervising their children rather than leaving them unattended as is sometimes the case during summer vacation.

"I want to thank the ones who do take responsibility for supervising their kids," Weinschenk said.

Problems have also surfaced at the park's aquatic center and skate facility.

Weinschenk said the large shelter house next to the skate park has become a gathering place for young people who come to the park not to skate but to cause trouble.

"Nine times out of 10 it's not the bikers or the skate boarders causing the trouble. It's the people who come come down with nothing better to do than cause problems," Weinschenk said.

He said he has heard reports of people using marijuana in the vicinity of the skate park and has personally dealt with underage smoking in kids as young as 9 years old. Some kids, he said, are even afraid to use the facility for fear of what allegedly goes on there.

"Unfortunately this gives the skate park a black eye," Weinschenk said.

On Wednesday board members discussed the possibility of permanently enclosing the skate park shelter house and making it only available for rental. They also suggested moving it to another location in the park.

"I think we should look into doing something like that because I want to make that skate park safer for our kids," park board member Leslie Hanson said.

Weinschenk also told the board that the police are investigating a suspicious person who allegedly stole a season pool pass and has been frequenting the facility, making patrons feel uncomfortable. Weinschenk said he confronted the man and instructed him not to come back.

Due to the recent problems at the park, officials are now investigating the possibility of issuing written citations for people who cause problems, barring them from using park facilities. Weinschenk said the city attorney is investigating the legal aspects of such a plan.

He told the board Wednesday night that he believes increased police patrols at the park and more awareness on the part of park staff and patrons is working to control the problem.

"I appreciate the help of the Greencastle Police Department and Sheriff's Department," he said.

In other business, the park board:

-- Learned that a new basketball goal will be going up at Westside Park (courthouse annex).

-- Learned that the application has been completed for a Safe Routes to School grant. Officials hope to use the money to pay for the construction of a walking path near Deer Meadow School. The path will eventually connect with the future Albin Pond link of People Pathways. The city won't learn until the fall if it received the grant.

-- Learned that the parks department is continuing to move forward with plans to purchase land adjacent to Robe-Ann Park, known as the Clearwaters property. The City Council is expected to make a decision on the matter next Tuesday.

The Park Board meets at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at city hall.

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