Pacific Park not so tranquil
Area residents, city officials addressing problems

Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

June 15, 2004 -- Two additional meetings are being planned to formulate a community-wide effort to resolve a number of problems around Pacific Park on weekends.

Some of the concerns were brought to last week's city council meeting by people who live in the area of the park. A meeting of residents in the Pacific Park area was held in order to explore with city officials ways to resolve problems in the park.

The meeting was organized by Dr. LaVelle Hendricks, who said planning for a solution to problems in the park is still in the preliminary stages.

"The city and the concerned citizens there at Pacific Park have been addressing some noise issues that have been going on," said Dr. Hendricks, who is also pastor of East Caney Baptist Church. "Right now, we are just in the preliminary stages of getting all parties, the city, concerned citizens and those who enjoy the park day in and day out, to see what we can do to help alleviate any of the noise disturbances that are going on."

Sulphur Springs Mayor Chris Brown, who attended the meeting along with Police Chief Jim Bayuk and other city officials, said a plan was formulated at the meeting to try to resolve the problems.

"Basically, what we were going to do was put some officers there in the park, especially on the weekends when activity picks up, and try to deter some of what is going on," Brown said.

That plan did not meet the expectations of city officials and community members, however.

"Friday and Saturday night there was not really anything going on due to the weather and activities elsewhere," Brown said.

Sunday night, the mayor said, was a different story.

"What I witnessed Sunday night, anybody out there is in a lot of danger," the mayor said. "They were throwing rocks, bottles or whatever they had, throwing them at police."

The violence did not come from those residents enjoying the park, but from people from out of town, according to Brown.

"This wasn't everybody out there, but there is a large group of just thugs that are mixed in with some of the residents that are just enjoying the park," he said. "A lot of them were from out of town. In an initial confrontation Sunday night, there was a group out of Grand Prairie, a group of six guys that jumped out, stirred up a fight, got in their truck and left."

A second meeting of residents in the Pacific Park area is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Wednesday in the H.W. Gray's Building at the park.

Both Hendricks and Brown said it was very important to gather as much input from the residents of the area as possible.

"I think it is very important to understand that people tend to support what they help to create," Hendricks said. "I just think it is important that we get all parties involved, those who enjoy the park, those who live around the park."

The mayor said he would be attending the Wednesday meeting and that he was hoping to have more of the residents around the park provide more information, as well as what they want done at the park.

Brown also said he wants those same residents to attend the called meeting of the council next Tuesday.

"We need all the feedback we can get from those residents around that park," Brown said. "There are a lot of things happening that don't need to be going on in a neighborhood park."

City Manager Marc Maxwell said a called meeting of the city council is set for Tuesday evening to update council members on the situation.

"We had hoped to be able to address this issue at the next regularly scheduled council meeting, but the park is quickly descending into anarchy," Maxwell said. "We need take some action pretty soon."

The city manager said problems and concerns at Pacific Park are not new. In 1995, the city shut off the lights at the park after hearing concerns from a number of residents around the area. That action was, however, not welcomed.

"At a subsequent [council] meeting, the council chambers were full of citizens angry about the police actions," the city manager said. "Now it seems we've got area residents demanding action, and we need some direction here.

"I cannot overemphasize the importance of community involvement," he said. "This will not work without community involvement. Period."

he city council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 22, in the Council Room of the Sulphur Springs Municipal Building, 125 South Davis St.

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