Dependable Erection

Monday, May 19, 2008

End of my rope

I haven't written about Duke Park recently. Let's make up for lost ground.

If you're new to Durham, here's a very brief, recent, oral history. There used to be an outdoor swimming pool at Duke Park. It closed after the 1993 season, and never re-opened. The concrete liner had cracked for the third time, relining the pool yet again was expensive and probably futile. Eleven years later, after using the abandoned pool for a time as a storage area for trees soon to be planted by Parks and Recreation the department, the pool was finally demolished after a neighbor spent months negotiating with several different city agencies to get them to figure out a way to work together on the project. The old swimming pool space is now the "Duke Park Meadow," and will be the site of the Beaver Queen Pageant on June 7th and, we're excited to learn, a "Cool" John Ferguson concert sponsored by Durham Parks and Rec on June 21st.We're hoping it doesn't rain for a few days before either event, but that's an entirely different blog post.

In 1996, Durham voters passed a municipal bond authorization for park improvements. Duke Park was slated for major upgrades. By the time the city got around to actually building those upgrades nine years later, inflation and other projects had reduced those upgrades to a single aspect, a modern playground area which could accommodate a hundred or a hundred and fifty kids at a time. And it does. On Weekend afternoons like those just past, there are easily that many children from all across Durham enjoying the park in our neighborhood.

ONe of the major complaints that park users had before the renovation began was the paved loop through the park that went around the picnic shelter. It was used by too many people who would drive their cars into the park as soon as it opened in the morning, use the immediate vicinity as a bathroom, and then sleep in their vehicles all day. Or conduct the occasional drug deal or sexual tryst. None of these activities are illegal*, but they were keeping the intended users, namely parents and small children, out of the park. Our neighborhood association was very happy to learn that Parks and Rec shared our concern about these activities, and agreed to close the loop to traffic. This would give all those youngsters a safe area to learn to ride bicycles or roller skates as well, and the loop gets heavily used for that.

But from the beginning, many park users have seen the closing of the loop as an inconvenience for their party needs, and driven across the lawn, or taken the bollards at the foot of the loop apart, and driven through the park heedless of the new regulations. That happened again this weekend. Our neighbors have been instructed by Parks and Rec to call 911 when they see cars in the loop. At least three of us did that on Saturday afternoon between 4 and 5:30 pm. Durham police were, apparently, busy with higher priority calls, and no officer arrived at the park until all the vehicles were out. Members of the DPD have been attempting to get Parks and Rec to install more effective means of blocking vehicular access to the park, but Parks and Rec hasn't implemented any of them.

This particular group simply removed the paving blocks that form the border of the small garden planted between the loop entrance and the stone pillars at the foot of the loop, dug up the sign that says "Dogs must be leashed," and drove over what remained of the hostas that were planted there last year to bring their cars into the park.

I'm really getting sick and tired of this nonsense. Why is our city prepared to wait until one of these assholes drives over someone's kid before they do something? Why is our city willing to allow its investment in our parks to be degraded in this fashion by people who obviously don't care a whit about public spaces?

As an emailer to our neighborhood listserv wrote:
Raleigh, Cary and Morrisville all have extensive rental agreements that people must sign to rent park shelters. Cary has a minimum $50 deposit, Morrisville has a $100 deposit. The rental agreements include information about parking. Citations are given for those not following the parking regulations. Deposits are not refunded to those who break the rules, do not clean up, or do any damage to the park or facilities. I expect no less of Durham.

We won't know until later this morning whether or not these users rented the pavilion at Duke Park, or were merely fortunate enough to claim it on a day when it was unrented. The question remains whether or not Parks and Rec will seek to recover damages from them if it turns out that they did have a rental agreement.

Even more importantly, why should we as a neighborhood association and as individuals, continue to put our own time and money into maintaining and improving the appearance of our neighborhood park if, by its inactions, the city is going to allow a small group of park users to constantly trash our work. And still more importantly, is the city going to wait until one of these selfish assholes actually injures or kills someone in the park before they figure out a way to resolve this problem.


* Brian helpfully points out in the comments that, maybe some of these activities are a little illegal. Sloppy writing on my part. Apologies to my readers.



  • Well stated Barry. I am also outraged and sick of this blatant disrespect for the park and its users. I believe more effective barriers are the only way this will be resolved.

    By Blogger PeterB, at 7:57 AM  

  • This could be such an awesome park...and it is in so many ways. I always take visiting little ones there just becuse of how frikkin cool the playground is...but i HATE it when i see obviously driven over foliage at the entrance...

    its like those jerks that feel like they have the right to park in the loading zone at the market and just get insulted when you give them a dirty look...bah

    on a separate but related note: so that pavillion is actually something that gets "rented?" I always assumed it was first come, first serve

    By Blogger Vera, at 8:18 AM  

  • $55 is the going rate for the pavilion these days. Believe it or not, the Neighborhood Association does not get a discount when we use it for our annual 4th of July picnic either.

    By Blogger Barry, at 8:41 AM  

  • This is insane. The morons who did this clearly have no respect whatsoever for other users of Duke Park, the neighbors of the park, or the city itself. They just flipped every fellow citizen of Durham as well as any authority figure the bird!

    Were you able to get a description of the car and license plate for the jackasses who did this? This is vandalism and the assholes who did this need to be called to account for their actions.

    By Blogger Steve Graff, at 3:31 PM  

  • That yellow and blue thing in the background of the 2nd picture is not a park structure. It's one of those inflatable castle "moonwalks." I have to assume that anyone arranging to have one of those at a child's birthday party or family reunion in a public space would arrange to make sure that the space is reserved.

    given that, one would assume that our Parks and Recreation Department has a record of who rented the picnic shelter yesterday. Other cities in the Triangle hold the renting party responsible for damages to the parks caused by their guests.

    Does Durham? they haven't in the past. We'll see if they do anything this time.

    By Blogger Barry, at 3:42 PM  

  • Or conduct the occasional drug deal or sexual tryst. None of these activities are illegal...

    I'm pretty sure having sex in a parked car in the park is illegal...

    ...that's what makes it so fun...

    By Blogger Brian, at 4:22 PM  

  • as is, of course, dealing drugs.

    sloppy writing on my part. good catch on yours.


    By Blogger Barry, at 4:25 PM  

  • This is outrageous. As hard as it is to get the City to maintain anything, we can't afford to let a few jerks mess up a nice park like this. And all because they are too lazy to carry their party supplies.

    Next time, try getting a photo of their license plate - and the driver - and post it here.

    By Blogger Todd, at 11:33 PM  

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