Goshen parks may close at dusk

Elkhart Truth file photoThis is the new office for the Goshen Parks Department at 524 E. Jackson St.

GOSHEN — Parks in Goshen would close earlier for part of the year under a change considered by Goshen City Council on Tuesday.

Council approved on first reading a change to park hours that would have all recreational facilities open at dawn and close at dusk rather than at 11 p.m. The change was recommended by the Parks and Recreation board, according to Superintendent Tanya Heyde, who said park staff have safety concerns over how early darkness falls in winter.

“After dark, it’s dark in those parks. Staff has expressed some concerns with being in the parks that late in the evening,” she said. “Our parks are not lit, with the exception of some safety lighting on some of our buildings.”

The new park hours wouldn’t limit the use of any trails in the city.

Council briefly debated closing at “dark” rather than “dusk.” Heyde said “dark” is the intent, and noted that some cities change park hours with the season but that could become confusing.

Mayor Jeremy Stutsman said “dusk” would still give park staff a little light as they close the facilities.

Councilwoman Julia Gautsche said it seems to be standard among cities for parks to close at dark. She said it’s harder to provide oversight when it gets too dark out.

Councilman Brett Weddell indicated that somebody sitting in a park at night to stargaze probably wouldn’t raise any eyebrows, but a dusk closure would give police something to point to if they were responding to a report of suspicious activity.

The new hours would take effect if council members pass the measure on a second reading at a later meeting. They declined to give the proposal a second-reading vote after discussing another change in the same ordinance that would allow people to ride electric bicycles on city trails. 

The other change to park rules would reflect state law allowing Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles on trails. Horses would still be prohibited, and any vehicle used on the trail can’t exceed 15 mph.

The new state law, enacted this year, treats electric motor-assisted bicycles the same as traditional pedal-powered bikes. Council debated whether it should allow Class 3 e-bikes on all city trails as well, but ultimately voted down an amendment proposed by Councilman Mike Orgill.

A few council members and Stutsman spoke against the idea, saying other trail users might not expect to encounter faster vehicles and that it would be easier to enforce speed limits if higher-powered e-bikes weren’t allowed.

“I personally don’t want them next to my family when we’re riding bikes,” Stutsman said. “For me, as a parent with young kids, I don’t like this. I wish that we could say, yeah, everybody’s going to be responsible about the speed limit, but I can tell you for a fact, that is not the way our community or any community works.”

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