Thu07242014

Last updateTue, 22 Jul 2014 9pm

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Hawthorne park security creates dilemma

HAWTHORNE – By day, Lindsey Phillips Park is a place where people can go fishing or have picnics, but every night at dusk, the park gate is closed to prevent crime.

Now that the volunteer who closed the park every night has decided to quit, the task has been left in the hands of city staff.

At Tuesday night’s commission meeting, Parks and Recreation Manager Samuel Wynkoop presented a $10,000 proposal for an electronic gate at the Lindsey Phillips Park at 6905 SE U.S. Highway 301. This would cut down on staff time that it took to open and close the gate every day.

The gate would be paid out of the Alachua County Wild Spaces & Public Places fund, he said. City Manager Ellen Vause said the cost would offset very quickly.

For the most part, the commission agreed that the cost of the gate was not a reasonable solution.

“Why do we need the park locked in the first place?” Vice Mayor Tommie Howard asked.

Mayor Matthew Surrency responded that before locking the park, “street ladies” and other questionable characters made the park unsafe.

Residents echoed concerns about the park.

Memree Stuart said she remembers a time when the park was a great place, but now it’s a place that she’d rather not let people see.

If the park gates were left open, the park would once again become an unsafe place, she said.

Former city commissioner Eddie Martin said the issue of what to do with the park has to do with protecting the reputation of Hawthorne.

Partnering with local businesses and getting recommendations from a crime survey through the Alachua County Sheriff Department’s Crime Prevention Program were also brought up in the discussion.

The commission did not come to a definite solution about how to handle the park, but agreed to volunteer closing the park until they reach a solution.