Community discusses park issues

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A crowd of about 40 residents and city officials gathered at Abby Wooley Park in Alabaster recently to discuss problems in the park and the need for an increased police presence there.

The meeting held Tuesday, April 19 followed an incident in which a gun was reportedly fired in the park off County Road 11.

Capt. Curtis Rigney of the Alabaster Police Department said police received a call that someone had fired a gun. He said a man with a gun was subsequently arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and felony possession of a firearm.

However, Rigney said, it was determined the man who was arrested had not fired the weapon near the park.

In the wake of that incident a meeting of the community was called at the park.

On hand were Capt. Rigney, Mayor David Frings, councilmembers Bob Hicks and Jerry Workman, Parks and Recreation Director Larry Vann and new city administrator Tony Rivera.

Former Alabaster Councilmember Bobby Harris said, &uot;It’s time we just take the park back.&uot;

Chris Green, one of the meeting’s organizers, said people in the community want the park be kept &uot;open and safe.&uot;

However, he said, &uot;There are those who want to tear it down … take it over. We want this to stay a park for the community.&uot;

Vann told the crowd that part of the problem is that while the park has been made attractive for the community, &uot;It’s also attracting some of the bad guys.&uot;

He said problems with the toilets, signs for men and women on the bathrooms and drainage issues in the park are being addressed. He also said handrails on the bridge in the park must be replaced with steel and noted it is the city’s intention to add a couple more security lights.

He also encouraged those in the crowd, &uot;If there is a problem call the police.&uot;

Frings said the city is adding an extra patrol in the area but also called for support from the community.

Rigney said while police would prefer to have the identification of the person who makes the call, it is not necessary.

Frings pointed out that Veterans Park, another park in the city, is closed with a gate at 10 p.m. and that it opens at 6 a.m. He said the gate is closed when most people are asleep unless someone sets some activity for the park in advance.

One woman in the crowd called for a constant police presence at Abby Wooley Park, however.

&uot;We can’t be here continually,&uot; Rigney said, indicating police have to answer other calls.

But, he said, patrols have increased and that the matter would be discussed even more.

Workman reported on efforts to start a Neighborhood Watch organization and encouraged the community to participate.

He also suggested two-man patrols of the park.

Green suggested that if a police car were to remain in the park for up to 10 minutes, &uot;If (people in the park) are doing anything wrong, they’ll leave.&uot;

He also suggested that (a police officer) be assigned to the police substation near the park on weekends.

Frings responded that he and Rigney would discuss that possibility.

However, the mayor said, &uot;It’s going to take everyone, not just police.&uot;

Workman also pointed out, &uot;It’s important that we all support the city’s response. If we get two-man patrols,&uot; he said, &uot;you are going to hear we are picking on people over here. All we can do is respond to what you’ve ask us to do.&uot;

Frings asked the crowd for help but advised them not to confront people in the park themselves. Instead, he stressed, call the police.

Following the meeting, Green said he believed the meeting went well. He said needs were identified and noted that it was good to have a meeting between the community and city leaders.