In a measure to eliminate unruly behavior at a local playground, Kilmarnock Town Council decided on Monday to post signs emphasizing that the vicinity is closed to the public after dusk.
The decision came as a relief to local residents who feared that their children would lose a place to play nearby.
On July 15, during the first council meeting in the new town hall on 1 North Main St., councilmembers agreed to post signs at the playground on Waverly Avenue stating that if anyone were caught on the property after dusk, then they would be trespassing.
The decision, recommended by Councilmember Rebecca Nunn, was a response to unwelcome activities at the site from youth over the age of 12 that have generated complaints from neighboring residents and businesses.
Such activities include the use of foul language on the grounds, public urination and trespassing through neighboring private properties.
To assist them in fixing the problem, the town released a notice after June 17 seeking input from the public.
The notice made the public aware that the town was considering possibly moving the playground to the town’s property at North Main Street and Town Centre Drive or closing it all together.
On Monday, three citizens responded.
Pastor Brooke V. Carrillo, of Iglesia Paz de Dios in Kilmarnock, said she was disturbed when she found out that the town was considering moving or taking down the playground.
She asked the town to not act on either option.
“I have a 14-month-old grandson. I take him to the playground…about two to three times a week, and it’s a world of wonder to him,” said Carrillo. “It’s a world of wonder to me because it’s a very nice playground, it’s clean, it’s well-kept and it’s in a great area.”
Floyd Hollister, of Raleigh Drive, said the playground is being used by members from all sectors of the Kilmarnock community in the way that “council intended it to be used.”
“I would strongly urge the council to keep the park where it is and deal with the problem which is being caused by a handful of people, rather than punish all of the parents who bring their children there on a daily basis and never cause a problem,” he added.
Bonnie Spivey, who lives behind the park, said no one has been at the playground at night recently after the park lighting had been fixed. She added that town police came on the occasions when there had been disruptive behavior in the area.
“If you move [the playground] to the town lot where there’s nobody around…I don’t think it will work,” said Spivey. “It’s not fair for the children who come and enjoy it during the day to be punished by putting it somewhere else.”
Nunn agreed with the citizens.
“I think the playground is a wonderful thing for the children and…we should not punish the good little children because we have some older children [causing problems],” said Nunn.
“I think it would not be a good idea to move it to the town centre property,” she noted. “It’s very isolated there, and I think that’s just asking for more trouble.”
In talking with people and asking for suggestions, Nunn proposed having Police Chief Mike Bedell and his staff detain individuals on the playground after dusk, given that signs are posted at the park saying they are trespassing at that time.
“I think the first time, you detain them, call their parents, and have their parents come pick them up,” Nunn suggested. “It’s a misdemeanor [and] the family would have to pay a fine, and I think if they’re there a second time, they get charged with trespassing.
“I think you would only have to do that a couple of times, and then the situation would go away,” she added. “I know we don’t want to do that, but we have to let them know that we’re serious; they’re not allowed there.”
Councilmember William Smith, however, questioned if the town could properly enforce the measure.
“I think if it’s in the newspaper and one or two get charged, it will stop,” Nunn replied.
“The issue is: where are they going to go if they don’t go there?” Gravatt posed.
Carrillo had suggested earlier that a skate park be built for the older youth to go to in a location that was not near a majority of businesses in town.
In other news, council approved Councilmember Howard Straughan’s motion to require council to hold a vocal roll call at the beginning of each meeting to record the council members’ attendance for the benefit of the town’s audio minutes.
On a related note, neither Councilmember Shawn Donahue nor Mayor Raymond Booth attended the meeting. In a phone message to the Northern Neck News, Booth said he was absent due to business reasons. Vice Mayor Emerson Gravatt assumed mayoral duties.