ELKHART — Ongoing issues with men in their 20s and 30s playing hard-core basketball and using colorful language have led to rims being removed from Weston Park on the city's near-west side.
This is the fourth time the rims have been removed from the neighborhood park in the past 12 years, according to Karin Frey, parks superintendent.
Arvis Dawson, Mayor Dick Moore's executive assistant, said the rims are taken down for a couple of years and then put back up to see what will happen. The rims at Weston were last taken down about four years ago.
Neighborhood residents informed their councilman and the mayor's office that they were uncomfortable taking their families to the park, which is located on Michigan Street at the site of the former Weston School.
“It's a problem that was there in years past, where for some reason, that park atttracts very serious basketball players,” said Councilman Brian Thomas, R-2nd, “young adults that come into the area and just kind of take over the park.”
“Residents that are not immediately affected by it two blocks away were saying they could not take their children there because of adult games going on,” Frey said.
Neighbors felt intimidated by the large crowds, she said, and “the language is not appropriate for a park or somewhere else.”
Frey said the outcome would be the same in any other park in a similar circumstance.
Dawson visited the park several times and talked to the players, who were coming in from other areas of the city. “When you talk to them they are fine,” he said. “What I told them is you can stay here if you behave yourself.”
He tried to encourage them to play at Tolson or Langle parks. However, Dawson explained that Weston offered a rare shady spot to play in the evening. “I can see the attraction to play in the evening,” he said.
But the foul language continued and Weston was left trashed.
If someone drove by, their aggressive play fighting appeared to be a real fight, Dawson said.
An early spring brought more calls from residents sooner this year. Residents also complained last year, he said, but things got better because of the hot summer.
“If you didn't know the kids, it would make you nervous,” he said.
Dawson said he hopes things will calm down and the rims can be replaced.
“It's definitely a no-win situation,” Thomas said. “I've heard from both sides. You certainly don't want to keep anyone from enjoying a certain city park, but it's not like we're taking away from their only (place to play) basketball.”
Thomas asked some of the players why they didn't go to certain parks. They told him they didn't feel safe at Langle because of gangs and that schools close their gates after a certain time. “If they go to another court and wear out their welcome another way, they will run out of options.” he said.
Thomas said there were three police calls to the area by the end of March, two calls for fights and a lewd activity and the neighborhood police officer stopped there 16 times in February and March.
“That's the final analysis. It's a neighborhod park. If you're stopping anyone in the neighborhood from enjoying ‘their park,' something had to be done. It was done in a very quick fashion,” Thomas said.