LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Lafayette park officials say the disruptive behavior by large groups of people at Columbian Park has been non-existent since two basketball hoops were removed exactly three weeks ago. Despite some impassioned pleas and a petition with more than 80 signatures, it appears it will stay that way for some time.
The parks board meeting which is usually empty felt filled to overflowing Monday with more than a dozen residents in attendance. Some who appreciate the removing of basketball hoops at the park, some, like Valerie Shepard, are against. One even brought a petition with 81 signatures.
"I was sad, like I said before, the kids enjoyed playing there and meeting their friends there that were younger," says Shepard.
Parks Safety and Security Director Tom Rankin says the behavior around the court got progressively worse from April until July 1 when the basketball hoops were removed. He says since then, there have been no issues.
"It's like turning off a light switch, that's my answer," says Rankin.
Mayor Tony Roswarski was one of the last to speak. He says despite the perceptions of some, it wasn't a rash decision. Police spoke with kids, issued trespass warnings and even made some arrests. But nothing seemed to work.
"When we've had problems in other parks, those enforcement activities stopped the problems that we had, they were corrected. It wasn't stopping here," says Roswarski.
He added the decision was made with other factors in mind, including residents, nearby businesses, park visitors and special events like the Colt World Series.
"We need a cooling-off period. I firmly believe that we needed a cooling-off period," says Roswarski.
Both during the meeting and after, Parks Board President Dave Mecklenburg said he supported the move.
"With the timeline of incidents that we have, we had to make a decision. I think the parks staff and the mayor made the right decision at this point until we can get a better way of policing that activity," says Mecklenburg.
Roswarski says part of the comprehensive answer to the problem will involve security cameras monitoring the area, similar to one at the Hanna Center. Roswarski says the cost is $9,000, and that money isn't available at the moment.
It's a decision that saddens not all the residents, but some like Shepard.
"I hope they bring the courts back. Whether it's at the same spot or a different spot in the park," she says.
But don't count on that for the year 2013.
"I wish I could say the basketball courts would be up May 1 of next year, but we'll just have to evaluate and see what happens," says Mecklenburg.
Lafayette police also said Monday they have not been able to link the recent problems with graffiti to either the fights around the basketball court or the removal of the hoops.
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