Sep 20, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterThe Riverton City Council on Tuesday clarified its intent to close local parks after sundown every evening.
Council members earlier this month expressed concern that closing parks at sunset would cause problems for schoolchildren and other residents who use the public areas in the evening, so on Tuesday they amended the city's park hours ordinance at the direction of police chief Mike Broadhead.
"We could add a legislative intent note into that ordinance that really tries to define what sundown means," Broadhead said, suggesting that "after sundown" could be defined as "those hours of darkness after the sun is fully set and the only lighting in the park is from the moon or artificial light."
Mayor Ron Warpness approved of the change.
"I just felt really uncomfortable ... just to lock it down at sunset," he said. "I know we have people that live around the parks. I can envision them calling up at sunset saying, 'Hey, they're still playing in the park,' even though it's a beautiful evening with plenty of sunlight."
He said the amendment allows police officers to use their discretion when patrolling Riverton parks, but it also provides officials with an ordinance that is "internally consistent with that discretion."
Councilman Lars Baker asked whether the ordinance would cover sidewalks that line most city parks, pointing specifically to the sidewalk that cuts through the middle of City Park on Federal Boulevard. Broadhead said sidewalks along roadways would not be included in the ordinance, but the sidewalk through City Park does count as park property.
Currently all parks are open between 6 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. Broadhead reminded the council that the change in hours should help alleviate crime in Riverton.
"The idea is just to have one more tool to prevent vandalism and crime occurring in our parks after hours of darkness," he said.
Sanctioned athletic activities on lighted fields are not included in the proposed ordinance, which 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."
Council members passed the ordinance on second reading Tuesday; it will come up for a vote one more time before becoming part of the city's code.
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