Sep 13, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff WriterRiverton City Council members voted on first reading to pass an ordinance to close city parks at sunset.
The proposed ordinance states that it would be "unlawful for any person or persons, other than city personnel conducting city business, to occupy or be present in any park during any hours in which the park is not open."
Currently all parks are open between 6 a.m. and 11:59 p.m.
Riverton police chief Mike Broadhead said having the parks open during the evening hours often leads to acts of vandalism, public drinking and other issues that are difficult to prevent because of limited visibility in the parks.
"I really don't see a point in having the parks open after dark," Broadhead said. "We know from studies that the mere presence of light can reduce crime up to 80 percent. I just can't see a purpose for people to hang out at the park after dark."
Broadhead said he did want to clarify all sanctioned athletic activities on lighted fields would not be part of the new ordinance.
Councilwoman Diana Mahoney said she worried about schoolchildren not having enough time to use the parks when the sun sets earlier in the winter.
Broadhead said the change would be up to the discretion of police officers, and the time change would be a good tool to control things going on at the parks.
"I rely on my officers to use good judgment," Broadhead said.
Mayor Ron Warpness said he would like the ordinance to require the parks to close one hour after sunset.
"We spend a lot of money on our parks, and we need to give our public the right amount of time to use them as much as possible," Warpness said.
Broadhead said he would be happy to follow the will of the council, but closing the park an hour after sunset would be an unnecessary complication because the sunset time changes every day.
Councilman Eric Heiser said it was not worth the "hassle" to have to worry about the ordinance change of one hour after sunset.
"We need to let common sense prevail, and I know under the chief's leadership it will," Heiser said.
Council members decided to go along with Broadhead's recommendation and change the ordinance to close the parks at sunset.
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