Park issues called ‘mess’

Residents along Douglas, South Wentz and South Rauthland streets complained Monday about parking along the streets, a recently closed gate being vandalized and the continuing use of profanity and bullying by youths at the skateboard ramp section of Veterans Memorial Park.

Brad Foor, South Rauthland Street, told Wapakoneta City Council members it is difficult for him to pull out of his driveway on the north side of the street, which exits to Douglas Street, because cars park on the opposite side, or south side, of the street and make it difficult to back out. He said he does not want to accidentally hit a car because he does not have room in his driveway to back out sufficiently.

Kathy Howard, South Rauthland Street, reported since the closing of the pedestrian gate at the end of South Wagner Street that people are cutting through her yard and leaving trash. She said motorists also park on the portion of southern most end of Rauthland Street and block her driveway.

Phyllis Steinke, North Rauthland Street, who approached councilors last month after a rash of vandalism to parked cars, described the situation at the south end of the streets “a mess.”

She said motorists continue to park at the dead end despite the gate being closed. She shared the youth throw their skateboards over the fence and then climb the fence, and the youths using the skateboard ramps continue to use profanity and vulgar language as well as bully younger children. She complained the park closes at 11 p.m. and not dusk, which permits youth in the park later than first believed.

“As I walk around the park with my grandchildren, you hear the FUs and the GDs and the whole bit — anybody who doesn’t live in this area has no idea what this neighborhood is enduring,” Steinke said. “The people who use this gate are not the walkers, I walk and I go to the main entrance. The people who use this entrance are the soccer people, I have nothing against soccer people, but they zoom down there, get all the way down to the dead end, squeeze in there and park there and they do this because they are late.

“We need this addressed, we need it taken care of,” she said.

Wapakoneta 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Lee said he would hate to have a popular park such as Veterans Memorial Park with its walking path not have walk-in entrances.

Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. said we are failing on this parking issue and the city’s goal of closing the gate “to make it less desirable” for people to use is not working.

“I would not want to make the knee-jerk reaction and pull out the skate ramps — that is stereotyping all the children,” Finkelmeier said. “We have an arm for dealing with profanity and foul language and then if we don’t enforce that then we have a liability issue. I believe the correct solution would be to step up enforcement and make this a priority of the police rather than punish any child who wants to use those skate ramps in the future.

“If you would bear with us and realize we are moving at the speed of government, we will work on this,” he said. “Your issues are not falling on deaf ears, I just don’t like to make a knee-jerk reaction.”

Council President Steve Henderson placed the issue of the skateboard ramps with the Parks and Recreation Committee, while the other issues were placed with the Health and Safety Committee for review.

Safety-Service Director Bill Rains told the Wapakoneta Daily News after the meeting he plans to visit the park today.

“I am going to out there and look at the gate which has been disassembled and see if we can assemble in a more secure manner,” Rains said. “If worse comes to worst, we will take out the opening and put all fence there.”

He said members of the Health and Safety Committee will review the issue in a committee meeting and city workers will move on their directive.

“In regard to the parking situation, I will certainly have a conversation with the police chief and look as some stepped up enforcement and get our officers to use a little more due diligence in this area,” Rains said.