‘Problematic’ park set to reopen with safety upgrades

The city is finally gearing up to re-open a park that for years has been a magnet for trouble.

“No trespassing” signs don’t appear to be keeping people out of closed-off Lavaland Park.

“It was very problematic and it was not a safe place for families,” City Councilor Ken Sanchez said. “What’s going on today is they are cutting through the fence and still, you know, they’re still hanging out there and there’s drug dealing.”

The park on Coors just north of Central is known by neighbors to be a popular hangout for the homeless and drug users.

“My husband and I have gone there and we’ve seen needles, we’ve seen tents where they’re sleeping there,” neighbor Becky Castillo said.

“About a year and a half ago it was closed so we could make some security improvements,” Philip Clelland, Parks and Recreation Department spokesperson, said.

Parks and Rec already invested $124,000 to clean up the park with LED lighting and new playground equipment that have been sitting there unused for more than a year.

Now, Sanchez is hoping Lavaland will re-open in early summer by using $80,000 of his set-aside funds for more safety improvements. 

“That’ll include a perimeter fence all the way around the entire park, also a gate that will be timed, so it will lock at 10 p.m. every night and reopen at 6 a.m.,” Clelland explained.

“I feel that that’s wonderful,” Castillo said.

Meanwhile, more security measures could be coming to other city parks if city council signs off on the mayor’s proposed budget, which includes a $4.6 million increase for Parks and Rec.

“Physical improvements such as lighting, fencing [and] cameras. We’re also looking at potentially some security patrols—working with APD and also city security,” Clelland said.

The parks department said it’s working with neighborhoods and city councilors to identify the other parks that need those security upgrades the most.

Extra funding in the proposed budget would also go toward park clean-up on the weekends and adding bathrooms to Los Altos, Arroyo del Oso, North Domingo Baca and Bullhead parks.

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