Dear LiB: Just Another Day in the Park, by Tom Fodi

There’s been a lot of great conversation concerning Bayne Park and the Bellevue community as a whole on LiB today. After the violent incident which occurred not long ago in the park we all hold dear, it is quite encouraging to see the community rallying to find ways to make the park safer and more enjoyable for people of all ages. I concur wholeheartedly with the ideas suggested in the previous post (more adults in the Park, a stronger police presence, allow dogs, and update playground equipment).

Simply put, we need more people to frequent Bayne Park on a daily basis. Hands down, that is the only sure way we can ensure it is a great place for everyone to enjoy.

Now that my business is established in Bellevue, I realized I had an opportunity to do more than talk (or write) about solutions for the community I love. In order to ensure my thoughts are more than merely ideas or suggestions for others, I decided to take some time and work from the park with my laptop. For just under an hour I worked from a park bench enjoying the God-given music of the birds, pleasant summer breeze, and the sights and sounds of a park being utilized by people of all ages. I watched skaters perform stunts in the skate plaza that would surely leave me hurt. I witnessed three family units with young children running around in the field and playing on the playground. However, in my time at the park, I also made three observations which I’m eager to share with you at length.

skaters

1) Bellevue Police are, in fact, actively patrolling Bayne Park.

Contrary to what I’ve read on Facebook and in our local paper in recent weeks, not only are Bellevue Police actively patrolling the park, they are interacting with and establishing relationships with those who frequent the area. As I sat on my park bench observing all that was going on around me, I was pleasantly surprised to watch a uniformed officer smiling, conversing, and clearly enjoying the day with a gaggle of teens taking a break from the skate plaza. I approached the officer to thank him for taking the time to be not only than a visible presence in the park, but also an active and engaging member of the community. We shared a few moments of conversation about his work and how LiB has changed a lot in our community in recent years. Knowing I was going to draft this letter, the officer asked me not to photograph him personally, but as proof of his presence and our conversation I told him I’d share the picture below of his cruiser in the park.

policecar

 

2) It’s time to end the ban on dogs in Bayne Park.

nodogsI’ll be honest, I have no idea who established this ban or when it went into effect, but it’s most definitely time to bring it to an end. In the roughly 50 minutes I enjoyed sitting on the park bench, I watched at least a dozen dog owners walk their four legged friends around the park perimeter (some with families and children tagging along). There’s absolutely no doubt, Bellevue residents love their dogs. It’s a crying shame that these dog owners are barred from walking through the park with their pets and families. If we are serious about seeing more people enjoying the park to organically decrease the opportunity for criminals to use the park for illegal activities, lifting the dog ban would be the most effective means to do this immediately. Clearly we would need rules on taking responsibility for one’s own pets, cleaning up after them, and, at worse, send a couple public works employees through to do a daily sweep for animal droppings, but the outright ban on dogs in the park is counter productive to a healthy, thriving, and community friendly park.

3) Banning use of the gazebo and reducing park hours is simply ridiculous.

Because the recent drug deal which resulted in a discharged firearm occurred in the gazebo situated near the library, Councilwoman Lynn Heffley informed council last week that the Parks and Recreation committee, which she chairs, decided to take “swift and decisive action.” Sadly, however, their swift action include forcibly removing law abiding and pleasant members of the Bellevue community making use of the gazebo without purchasing a permit from the borough. Additionally, in spite of the fact that the incident occurred in broad daylight, she and the committee have unilaterally decided without a vote or input from the rest of council to reduce park hours by at least a half an hour to clear the park before dark. In other words, because criminals broke numerous laws already on the books, Councilwoman Heffley and the Parks and Recreation committee have decided to place the burden of additional restrictions on the shoulders of law abiding members of our community.

While I worked in the park, the first sign that it was time for me to move on and return to my office was the sight of some threatening clouds. If I were allowed to use the gazebo, which was sitting completely empty at the time, I might have just moved there and stayed in the park longer. There’s no question that the borough should utilize the permit system in order to manage large parties and events at the gazebo, but an outright ban on community members sitting in the gazebo on a beautiful summer afternoon because they haven’t filed the correct paperwork and paid the proper fee is simply ridiculous.

bayneparkWhy shouldn’t families with small children be welcome to have a picnic in the gazebo if it’s not being used?

Why shouldn’t individuals enjoying time in their community be welcome to find reprieve from the hot sun under the gazebo’s roof?

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, what sense does it make to punish Bellevue residents, families, and children with less time during the evening hours in the park their tax dollars pay for because some idiots made a stupid decision in broad daylight?!

If I’m elected to Bellevue Council this fall and these issues haven’t already been corrected, it will be among the top of my to do list to implement these changes. I will encourage the noticeably increasing police presence; per the previous post, perhaps utilizing the School Resource Office in the summer months due to his pre-existing relationship with many Bellevue teens. I will strive to eliminate the ban on dogs in the park in order to immediately and naturally increase foot traffic throughout the park. Lastly, I will repeal the counter productive ban on personal gazebo use and restore normal park hours.

Bayne Park is a beautiful and incredibly valuable asset to the Bellevue community. If we are going to prevent it from ever becoming a liability we need to find ways to encourage community use of the park, not restrict it further!

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3 Responses to “Dear LiB: Just Another Day in the Park, by Tom Fodi”

  1. As an older adult I find Bayne Park a great oasis to enjoy a bit of nature. Those using the park are usually respectful and well mannered. The playground is well used and the skate park provides hours of enjoyment for our youth. I have seen the police in the park and always acting professional and friendly. Bellevue has a good foundation, great people and a nice park and library. A few bad apples should not deter us from moving on.

  2. Years ago I provided some members of council with copies of the ordinances for the county parks. At that time they wanted to know how to control behavior. Just one point — all of the groves in County parks are by permit only BUT are open for use by anyone if no permit has been issued to reserve a particular grove. Enforcement would take too long to explain so just know that upon approach after a compliant you ask for the permit holder explain compliant if not do the same thing. Explain consequences of a second complaint and leave. Beauty is the ordinance can be used to close a disorderly situation if need be. You never address the language — you address the behavior.

  3. Tom. Good luck in the election and I enjoyed this article. I spend time on the weekends in Bayne with my daughter. I have noticed a definite increase of police presence at the park, and I am glad to see it. I have noticed the same experience as you. The officers I usually see are engaging with the public and are always friendly. I also agree with you that the ban on dogs in the park should be lifted. I see dogs at other parks all the time, and it never seems to cause an issue.

    Bayne is a beautiful park and has a lot of potential. The mixture of having the library next door is a huge plus, especially with the historic value and look of it. The skate park was done really well, and I don’t find the teenagers that frequent it cause any sort of major issues that would really scare families away from utilizing the park more. A few minor changes and more investment in the park in general and it could be a real community positive.

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