LORAIN — City parks will remain open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
City Council members Monday tabled a proposal to close the parks at dusk to reduce drug dealing, loitering and vandalism. Dusk would have been defined as when streetlights turn on.
Councilman Brian Gates, D-1st Ward, said he proposed the early closing in response to complaints from constituents who said police told them they couldn’t do anything about people loitering until 11 p.m.
Gates said he’s been receiving complaints about parks since he became a councilman in 2010. Gates said closing early wouldn’t be a cure-all for crime but would give police leverage that might make a “small dent in some of the problems we’ve been experiencing.”
Crippled by a shrinking local tax base and federal and state tax cuts, Lorain in 2010 was forced to eliminate its Parks and Recreation Department. Ten Streets Department workers are now responsible for maintaining Lorain’s 56 parks. If passed in November, a portion of a proposed 0.5 percentage point income tax increase that would raise $5.3 million annually would go to hire more workers to maintain parks.
J.R. Lee, captain of the East Side Neighborhood Block Watch, which has cleaned up Century Park, expressed support for the change.
“When does a park get vandalized? After dark,” he said.
However, critics said it would create hassles for park events at night and penalize law-abiding residents who want to use the parks after dusk.
“We can’t punish the majority for these knuckleheads out there creating the problem,” said Councilman Eddie Edwards, D-5th Ward.
The current park ordinance allows Safety/Service Director Robert Fowler to close parks early on a case-by-case basis. Early closings would’ve allowed Fowler to keep parks open late on the case-by-case basis.
The proposal allowed for parks with lighted recreational areas for sports, like basketball, to stay open until 11 p.m.
Nonetheless, critics worried about unintended consequences. James Ziemnik, Lorain County Metro Park director, said Lakeview Park would need an exemption due to nighttime activities.
Police Lt. Edward Super, speaking on behalf of Chief Cel Rivera, said the definition of dusk might force police to evict people from the park before 6 p.m. in the winter.
Resident John Wargo suggested Fowler exercise the option to close some parks early and pick the ones with the most crime.
“That would give the police something they could work with,” he said.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or email@example.com.