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Renee Williams paints her daughter Lunden Johnson’s, 10, face during a picnic the North Riverside Neighborhood Association had to announce the re-opening of Weston Park’s basketball courts Saturday, June 15, 2013. (Truth Photo By Julia Moss) (Julia Moss)

A volunteer cooks hot dogs during a picnic the North Riverside Neighborhood Association had to announce the re-opening of Weston Park’s basketball courts Saturday, June 15, 2013. (Truth Photo By Julia Moss) (Julia Moss)

Felicia Rice serves Lunden Johnson, 10, a hot dog during a picnic the North Riverside Neighborhood Association had to announce the re-opening of Weston Park’s basketball courts Saturday, June 15, 2013. (Truth Photo By Julia Moss) (Julia Moss)

Elkhart Police Corp. Odle takes Cooper Curtis’, 6, fingerprints as an activity during a picnic the North Riverside Neighborhood Association had to announce the re-opening of Weston Park’s basketball courts Saturday, June 15, 2013. (Truth Photo By Julia Moss) (Julia Moss)

Elkhart Police Corp. Jason Walsh lets Ethan Bowlby, 9, play with Cai, a trained police dog, during a picnic the North Riverside Neighborhood Association had to announce the re-opening of Weston Park’s basketball courts Saturday, June 15, 2013. (Truth Photo By Julia Moss) (Julia Moss)

Darin Eppert, 17, Michael Edmonson, 17, Zack Taylor, 16, and Haley Wilcox play basketball on Weston Park’s newly opened courts during a picnic the North Riverside Neighborhood Association had to announce the court’s re-opening Saturday, June 15, 2013. (Truth Photo By Julia Moss) (Julia Moss)

Michael Edmonson and Darin Eppert, both 17, play basketball on Weston Park’s newly opened courts during a picnic the North Riverside Neighborhood Association had to announce the court’s re-opening Saturday, June 15, 2013. (Truth Photo By Julia Moss) (Julia Moss)
Elkhart neighborhood reopens basketball court
Posted on June 16, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — For years, Elkhart’s Weston Park has been the center of an ongoing debate among neighbors about whether to open the basketball court.

At a picnic held Saturday, June 15, at the park, the North Riverside Neighborhood Association announced that the rims had been re-installed.

The picnic was the first major event hosted by the N.R.N.A., which formed about seven months ago.

Children played at the playground while teenagers played at the basketball court. Activities included free food, a live band, face painting and a raffle. Officers from the police and fire departments also showed up to the picnic, bringing an engine and a K-9 unit along.

State Rep. Tim Neese also attended the picnic. Neese does not live within the boundaries of the neighborhood, but he said he was invited by the neighborhood association.

“I’m very encouraged by (the N.R.N.A.’s) direction,” he said. “It’s nice to see the opportunity for residents to ask questions to city officials and to get to know police officers and firefighters.”

Kristen Senne, who is stepping up to become chair of the N.R.N.A., said the picnic was hosted in an effort to bring neighbors to meet each other and to talk about the resources the park has to offer.

The topic of the basketball court was brought up during the N.R.N.A. meetings, with several neighbors saying they wanted to see the rims installed again.

“We decided to give it another try and to work to mitigate some of the issues,” Senne said. “But we also want to encourage neighbors to stay vigilant.”

Residents attending the picnic seemed supportive of the decision to re-install the rims.

Lanata Chalmers, who brought a friend and her friend’s grandchildren to the picnic Saturday said her son was happy to hear the news of the basketball court reopening.

The rims have been removed several times in the last 13 years. The last time they were removed was in April last year. Residents said they felt uncomfortable bringing their children to the park because the basketball courts brought large crowds of men who played hard-core basketball and often used foul language.

Mayor Dick Moore, who attended the picnic, thanked the N.R.N.A. for its efforts to make the concerns of the neighborhood heard.

Councilman Brian Thomas, R-2nd, encouraged the neighborhood to use the basketball court, but also to call police, via the number that was printed on the newly-installed signs in the park, if there are any issues.

“Weston Park has become the center of this neighborhood,” he said. “It’s great to see all the activity out here today.”