Thursday, May 04, 2006

Picnic Tables

A great big pat on the back for Alexandria cops. About two months ago, police took decisive action that had an immediate and positive effect on the neighborhood: they leaned on Recreation & Parks to remove the picnic tables and bleachers from Hunter-Miller Park at Fayette and Queen Streets.

The result: kids and their parents are turning out in droves to use the playground. The basketball court, too, sees regular use for pickup games.

How could removing the tables and bleachers make the park safer? To quote Alexandria Police Captain William Johnson:

My understanding is that the bleachers and tables were placed there for specific events and then to be removed after the event ended. As I understand it, the concern now is that leaving the bleachers and tables in place invites people to linger there and not use them for legitimate purposes. We have had reports of individuals sitting at the picnic tables to deal drugs. I don't think it will be a problem to return the picnic tables upon request if there is a community function that is planned but then they should be removed when the function is over.

I guess the bottom line is that the park is primarily for children to use the play ground and the two benches that face the playground are sufficient seating for parents who are with their children, or for anyone else who wants to sit and enjoy the park. The basketball court is for pick up games and the bleachers are not really needed.

Captain William P. Johnson
Patrol Division II
2003 Mill Road
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
(703) 838-4744

Ironically, the Inner City Civic Association was responsible for the problem in the first place. Picnic tables were not an element of the original park design, but were placed there a while back by Recreation & Parks for an ICCA event. Someone apparently forgot to ask the City to pick the tables afterward, and over the course of time the drug dealers discovered them.

But that should now be a thing of the past. Or so the Growler thought ...

It was troubling to read the May ICCA meeting agenda and discover a vote is planned next Wednesday on whether to remove or replace the tables.

If our police have confirmed the tables were used in drug dealing, if they have weighed in that the park is meant for children, and if they have stated that it’s better for the tables to be gone, why must ICCA take a vote? And why hasn't ICCA gotten Captain Johnson's message out to the community?

Don't the kids in this neighborhood come first?

And exactly whose interests would be served by putting tables back in the park?