Forest Park Civic Association members last week opted to delay a vote requesting a change in the hours for Woodward Park.
Members of the Karmel-Woodward Park Civic Association, also meeting Nov. 13, decided to stick with an earlier request for Columbus Recreation and Parks Department officials to allow the park to be open only from dawn to dusk.
The dual and divergent decisions by the civic groups that share the park were the result of earlier incidents of vandalism and fake gang graffiti at ball fields inside the park; the fields are owned by Columbus City Schools.
In response to those incidents and complaints of drug deals taking place in the evening hours at Woodward Park, Columbus police officer Scott Clinger recommended that area civic groups ask city officials to trim back the hours from the current closing time of 11 p.m.
"It just gives us a tool to just deal with the people who are up to no good," Clinger, one of the neighborhood liaisons to a precinct that covers part of Northland, said at the Nov. 13 Forest Park Civic Association Block Watch meeting.
That session preceded the association's regular meeting, at which 14 of the 22 members present voted to delay making a decision on changing park hours.
"Right now they don't have probable cause to approach anyone, and that's what this would accomplish," Karmel-Woodward Park Civic Association president William Logan said.
His members, Logan said, have not changed the position they took in September asking for restricted hours at Woodward Park, an issue complicated by the fact that the school district owns part of the site.
"It's more complicated than at first blush," Logan said. "Therefore, we're pursuing getting all the parties together for a session to figure out how we can accommodate it and not negatively impact overall access to the park.
"If it was easy, it would have already been done. It's not easy so it hasn't been done."
Several Forest Park Civic Association members said they arrived at the Nov. 13 meeting alerted to the issue by their newsletter and were prepared to support the change of hours for the park, but they were swayed by arguments R. Scott Prigan made at the meeting.
Prigan suggested the switch potentially could lead to more confrontations, potentially tragic ones, between police officers and young people. He said city officials haven't offered creative solutions to issues at the park.
"The thing that really gets to me is we wouldn't be talking this way if we lived in Dublin or Worthington or Westerville or Upper Arlington," Prigan said.
Laure Burkland agreed, noting that she gets home from work at 5 p.m. and frequently then walks her dogs in the park. If that takes place past dusk, she said, technically she would be trespassing.
"I don't think the solution is to make bad guys out of the people who are making responsible use of the space," she said.
Forest Park Civic Association president Ed Vanasdale, prior to the vote to table action on the park hours, noted the request was made by the community liaison officers.
"They came to us and asked that they have the ability for the park to be changed ... to dawn to dusk," Vanasdale said. "We didn't go to the police."
Member Felix Quachey added his voice to those recommending a delay in the decision.
"There's not a meeting of the minds by any stretch of the imagination," he said.