Columbia Township has established new hours for the park on Hyde Road, as this website reported on March 21st.   The park had previously been closed at 5 pm due to disorderly and some criminal activity.  The problems multiplied at 5 pm like clockwork.  Groups would ride into the park and take it over, putting other users and neighbors at risk, and creating chaos on the road.  Now it will be open to 9 pm.  So, what’s different?

Using new scheduling flexibility, Columbia Township Police Chief Jay Niles will dedicate a police officer to the park on the busiest, and potentially, most vulnerable days.    At the park yesterday (Thurs 3/30), Chief Niles said “our goal is to keep this safe, so people can take advantage of this beautiful park.”  He points to the ordinance, which is the basis for enforcement.  “If there’s a violation, you’ll be charged and ejected from the park for the day.  If you want to come here and cause problems, keep on moving along.”

To read the ordinance, please click here.

What kinds of things happen?  “Somebody puts up loudspeakers, and visitors at the other end of the park can’t hear themselves think.  Then there’s drinking alcohol but disguising it, or using narcotics or drugs, they then start acting poorly.  A large number of people come here to enjoy the park peacefully, and there are no problems.  But the segment of society that comes out here and creates problems makes it miserable for everyone.  It can’t happen anymore.  It’s the line in the sand.”

In addition to the dedicated officer, regular patrols will also keep an eye on activity.  Columbia Police also look after the County Park at the east end, using County rules as the basis for enforcement.

Before leaving the topic, your reporter probed for a couple of examples of the more egregious incidents that culminated in the 5 pm shutdown.  Here’s what Chief Niles described: