Bellevue reaped some positive and negative news last week. First, Mayor Cusick announced that KaBOOM! and the Humana Foundation named Bellevue as one of 241 cities on its Playful Cities USA list. Just days earlier, Bellevue’s premier park was the scene of gun-related crime. Two young men met a third man in Bayne Park – something very normal – except the purpose was for an arranged drug deal. The two young men had the bright idea to try to rob the drug dealer which resulted in a gun being discharged. This happened in broad daylight.
Take a stroll through Bayne Park and you will notice the litter, foul language, and teen loitering. Connie Rankin, editor of The Citizen, has a great blog post worth reading about what to do about behavior Bayne Park – and she’s perfectly right. contrary to what many on Bellevue Council are currently proposing, Bayne Park doesn’t more rules or less skateboarders. Connie explains that concerns about Bayne Park are rooted in the theory of ‘environment influences behavior’. Here are four simple things that can be done to improve Bayne Park and ultimately create a safer Bellevue:
- Get more adults in Bayne Park. On any given day, the average age of those using Bayne Park is under 18. In most cases that should be fine but the number of responsible adults supervising children using Bayne Park facilities can be counted on one hand. We have all been teens before and we know that many teens act differently when adults aren’t around. More adults need to be in Bayne Park – walking on the sidewalk, sitting on benches, or playing with children. Another way is to work with Bayne Library to expand their hours. Bellevue takes pride in being a working class community but library hours reflect traditional business hours. If working families can’t use the library when they’re not working, it makes it difficult and less convenient to use Bellevue’s library. Teens are less likely to curse, littler, smoke, or fight when adults are around.
- Have the Northgate Resource Officer in Bayne Park. Bellevue already pays the largest share of the cost for having a police officer at Northgate Junior/Senior High School. Since most of the concerns are related to the behavior of the teens, the police officer most acquainted with our community’s teens should be visible in Bayne Park. If the high school Resource Officer position is a year-round position, then there is no reason that officer shouldn’t be a frequent and visible visitor to Bayne Park. Why else? See #1.
- Allow dogs in Bayne Park. Why are dogs prohibited from Bayne Park? We can reasonably assume due to owners inability to pick up after their dogs. Yes, dogs can also be dangerous. There are many people with dogs considered to be ‘dangerous’ breeds walking their pets through Bellevue yet dog violence is rare in our community. There is easily enough room for dogs to play in open areas in three of the four corners of the park. Despite fears of dogs – leashed or unleashed – running in Bayne Park may frighten some, they also bring responsible adults to the park. Why is this important? Again, refer to #1.
- Repair or replace the playground equipment. If you have children in Bellevue you’ve probably played on the playground at Bayne Park. If so, you’ve probably also noticed the sorry state of Bayne Park’s playground equipment. Those with young children realize the predicament they have. The newer equipment is damaged and in need of repair – but it is also designed for older children. Several features are unreachable for young children or too dangerous for a child who doesn’t have their balance. The equipment designed for a small child is lackluster – but also the closest to the skate plaza, where foul language is most likely to be overheard. This often makes visits to Bayne Park brief, thus reducing the number of responsible adults visible in the park. If funds can be found to provide a robust playground (see North Park’s popular black & gold playground) this will make Bayne Park a top destination not just for Bellevue families but that will attract families from outside the Borough to come here to play – and hopefully live.