Be cautious of discouraging use of village park for all

We understand McDonald officials are working hard to keep the public safe and put a stop to bad behavior occurring in its village park, but we worry that punishing everyone for the crimes of few may not be the best solution.

Council members have determined that basketball courts at Woodland Park will remain closed the rest of the summer. That decision came after a rash of bad behavior including an armed robbery at the courts last summer, when a youth had a cell phone taken at gunpoint. Mayor Glen “Marty” Puckett said there were also fights and the discovery of litter and drug paraphernalia at the basketball courts this summer. Coupled with loud and excessive use of profanity by individuals on the basketball courts, council decided last month to shut them down.

Now they are scheduled to vote in third reading Wednesday on a new ordinance spelling out that residents of the village and the McDonald Local School District will be given priority for use of the parks. That includes use of the gazebo, ballfields, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, splash pad and playground. Violators of this rule could face a minor misdemeanor criminal charge with the possibility of ejection from the park or arrest.

Woodland Park, much like its name suggests, is a beautiful wooded area maintained for the enjoyment of residents. We understand the desire by these elected officials to keep it peaceful and appreciate their attempts to be proactive on this growing problem.

Still, we wonder how village officials, who have been unable to keep more serious crimes at bay here, now are planning to monitor whether those using this public facility are local taxpayers or if they have come from neighboring communities.

Perhaps there are better options that should be considered before creating new laws that will be difficult, at best, to police.

Increased police patrols are the most logical solution. If locking the basketball courts has proven successful in eliminating vandalism and crime, why not continue to do that overnight when most bad activity occurs. Why not place emergency call boxes in the park, or encourage McDonald residents to create and take part in a neighborhood watch program? We believe the public’s involvement would be welcomed in helping to keep the area safe.

Certainly, all parks must be a place where people can come and be safe. They also must be a welcoming asset.