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Progress in the park

Jul 12, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

As discussions continue, how the park's biggest users are treated is important

A good bit of useful discussion has taken place over the past year or two about how Riverton City Park could be made a more desirable place for family activities, how the issue of vagrancy and alcohol abuse might be addressed at the park, and whether the skate park in the northeast corner ought to be upgraded.

All three elements came together for a couple of hours Monday night, and some of the ingredients for a solution were apparent.

The occasion was the first of the annual Hot Notes Cool Nights summer concerts at the City Park band shell. The shell stands right next to the skate park, with a chain link fence between, and it's also in the middle of the area most-frequented by the infamous "park rangers" -- vagrants who assemble in the park to hang out, sleep, sometimes fight, and usually drink.

Notable at the park Monday night was the model behavior of the normal users of the skate park adjacent to the band shell. In past years the community band often had to compete with the skateboarders in the audio spectrum, and the clatter of the wheels on the ramps and concrete added extra percussion -- and not in a good way -- to the tunes being performed 20 yards to the west.

But Monday night the skaters took an intermission during the concert, for which they earned thanks publicly from master of ceremonies Dennis Tippets -- and privately from the concertgoers, no doubt. A few of the skaters listened to the music too.

That will serve the skate parkers well as they continue their fundraising and public-relations efforts around town to get a new skate park built, or simply to improve the one that's already there.

Also seen was the two-person mounted patrol from the Riverton Police Department, the better to ensure no disturbances from the sometimes-disruptive park rangers who have marked some previous concerts. There appeared to be no major incidents. The presence of the officers and their mounts obviously was a deterrent to anyone who might have thought about making trouble.

Those are two positive developments for this summer's concert series, and they illustrate how a little cooperation and advance planning can help keep the peace and improve the experience for everyone when specific events are planned for the park.

Just such an event takes place Saturday, when the year's largest one-day gathering in the city returns for Riverton Rendezvous Day in the Park.

In the longer term, questions remain about how the most-consistent users of the park -- the "rangers" and the skaters -- ought to be treated to keep the space pristine for the few times a year when others will come to the park in large numbers.

City Park has changed a lot from the days when there was Little League baseball played there four nights a week, when the community swimming pool was there, and when half of the public events in the summer season were scheduled in that park because there weren't many other places to choose from.

Also changed is the demographic makeup of the surrounding residential area. Much more of it is rental property now, with far fewer long-term homeowners living near the park.

There are other tennis courts in Riverton now, other playgrounds, other parks with fun amenities and quieter surroundings.

Many of these changes have little to do with the skateboarders or the park rangers, who, among other things, are the ones actually making use of the park every day.

As discussions on the future of the park continue, an important question will be whether those who do want to be there ought to be discouraged -- and if so, how.

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