Closing city parks at night would eliminate camping at Riverview
By Zach Schwindt
Fort Morgan Times
POSTED: 06/20/2018 05:49:08 PM MDT
Parks Superintendent Doak Duke said that there has been a steady rise in petty crime at the city parks during nighttime hours. (Zach Schwindt / Fort Morgan Times)
The city of Fort Morgan has seen a steady rise in trash disposal, vandalism, and petty crime at city parks during the nighttime hours, and now they're looking to put an end to it.
During a council meeting on Tuesday morning, the city decided to hold a public hearing on July 3 at 6 p.m. to gather input on an ordinance that would establish hours of operation for city parks.
"This is a measure that has been discussed for the past year," City Clerk and Acting City Manager John Brennan said during the city council meeting. He explained that the city has seen a rising problem with trash being dispersed in the parks overnight, which occupies a significant amount of staff time to clean it up every morning.
The ordinance suggests that city parks should be open during the hours of 5 a.m. and 11 p.m., with a six hour closing window in the middle of the night.
"I feel like this is a very beneficial move that we need to bring forward and let the public know some of the issues that the city staff is dealing with," Mayor Ron Shaver said.
Parks superintendent Doak Duke spoke to the council about the various issues that have arisen over the past few years, specifically at Riverside Park.
"Over the past few years, it's really gotten worse down there with our trash issue," he said. He also explained that every morning, the city employees spend at least two to four man hours picking up trash that was dispersed from the night before.
"It's just never ending," he said. He mentioned that beyond trash, he's seen a rise in vandalism and misuse of city property has well.
"We're used to seeing a couple of tents in the campground across from the playground, but now we see dozens of tents down there that stay there for long and extended periods of time," he explained. He also said that it's very common for the campers to defecate in the park rather than going across the park to the public restrooms.
The ordinance would apply to all city parks, although Riverside Park is hit with the majority of the trash and vandalism issues.
Brennan said that the city intends on putting up signs to inform the public of the operating hours of the park.
"Having the signage in place would give the police department a better opportunity to interact with people who are found in the parks after hours," he said. "It gives them a reason to approach them to see what they're up to."
Councilwoman Allison Howe explained that the ordinance would protect city property, sets appropriate boundaries for citizens and visitors, but also allows for exceptions for special use including the annual disc golf tournament.
Residents who would like to give public comment on the parks ordinance are encouraged to attend the public hearing at City Hall on July 3 at 6 p.m. during the regular city council meeting.