Belmont Police try to rid Stowe Park of children

January 22, 2008 at 5:45 pm 10 comments

Sorta anyway,                                   belmont-pd-logo.jpg

Just wrote an inflammatory headline to see if ya’ll were paying attention.

But, there is an issue brewing with the popularity of the downtown area with young and old alike.

Stowe Park has long been a gathering place for students from the junior high/now, middle school, immediately after school each day from about 3:05 to almost 6:00 PM.

After the Central Avenue bridge was renovated in 1992-1993, the Belmont Public Library saw a huge increase in the after school “attendance”. The library created a policy for behavior and time limits for this new attendance pattern.

Successive Belmont Middle School principals have had varying levels of success with afterschool clubs and activities, all pretty much completing by 4:00 PM each day.

With the opening of the Belmont General Store and Caravan Coffee Shop, students began flocking to these venues as well as the library and park area.

belmont-downtown-stowe-merc.jpg

Parents began “allowing” the children to go to these places afterschool. Many of the children getting “freedom” after years of afterschool child-care type programs aged them out of their licensing focus. Parents saw this freedom as also freedom from the financial burden of child-care.

So, the community must now bear the added cost of more police officers patrolling downtown Belmont and Stowe Park. As Chief James claimed in a letter to Middle School families, patrolling the park is taking away an officer from [more important] other duties during their shifts.

Caravan Coffee and the Belmont General Store, for all the goodwill that is done by these businesses, have had to call in the police to deal with the behavior of more than just a few kids at times.

The opening of the pavilion at the top of the hill in Stowe Park has contributed to a growing crowd of kids, particularly on nice days.

So, what can be done? The BannerNews did an article about the issue in last Thursday’s paper:

stowe-park-and-children-after-school.pdf

We are suggesting that the school take a more proactive approach toward afterschool “latchkey” children. “Latchkey” is a terminolgy for children who carry their housekey to let themselves in at home while the parents or guardians are away. It was also used by some political elements to stigmatize children of families who have both parents in the away-from-home workforce.

Community groups such as the the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and others have offered programs for years, specifically designed and geared to the ‘tweens and early adolescents of a community. Many times these programs meet until 5:30 or 6, but not every day. The school itself offers many clubs that meet from 3:15 to 4:00 PM, only closing down when the teacher-advisors vacate the buildings around 4’ish. Team sports generally take place from 3:15 to 5:00 PM and when games are held, large student crowds are present.

Grants are available to offer teachers incentives to stay longer to develop interesting programs and activities.

We agree, this is a particularly difficult age of student to engage. Chief James singles out the skateboarders for example, as a negative impact.

The negativeness of skateboarding and inline skating (called “boarding, or “skaters” respectively) is because the community doesn’t generally take kindly to young (mostly) boys who like individual challenges as opposed to the traditional ‘team sports” approach of engagement.

Girls like to gather in small groups to socialize, and where would that be? Close to where boys hang out – be it on the ball field or in a park area.

surveillance-cameras.jpg

The Belmont Parks and Recreation director’s comments about setting up surveillance cameras in all the parks is short-sighted and not going to accomplish a P & R goal of engagement. It will just send the students “somewhere else”.

One of the Belmont P& R department’s long term goals was to develop and operate a skate park. Now that the bond referendum has passed, it is time to move this project forward rapidly. Of course, if the placement of such a park is farther away from the prospective user group — middle school aged children– the less impactful it will be in the long run. We have long recommended that the lower (unused) tennis courts at Davis Park be the site.

skatepark-space.jpg

(Davis Park photo)

It is time for the elements to match up and get a comprehensive series of goals and action steps into place. We suggest that the four main groups — the school, downtown merchants, parks and recreation, and students (along with their parents) — develop this plan. It would be wise to include the police department after there is consensus on the “self-policing” process before the law enforcement brings its heavy hand to bear on the result.  

  

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Entry filed under: Belmont, Belmont Banner, Belmont Front Porch, Belmont Middle School, Belmont Police Department, Bond Referendums, Chief David James, City Council, City of Belmont Police, Community, Downtowns, Front Porch, Gaston County Schools, Hometown newspapers, Life, Middle School Sports, mybannernews, News, Parks and Recreation, People, Physical Fitness, Quality of Life, RL Stowe YMCA, Safety, School, Sidewalks, Skateboarding, Small Town, Social Groups, Stowe Park, Teachers, Things to Do, Walkable Communities.

OMG – How Sad… It pays to think outside the box

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Geno  |  January 24, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    There’s ONE group responsible for solving this problem – PARENTS!

    Reply
  • 2. Tom  |  January 25, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Wow
    Cops might have to do their job. It’s like people think that this is a small town or something. I guess the businesses in downtown could shut down in the afternoon.

    The other day I was at the coffee shop at the time BMS let out. I was actually impressed with the kids behavior. I thought well I’m glad that my kids will grow up in this town and have somewhere to go after school (the park)when they’re old enough. If the kids are pushed out I guarentee that some of them WILL find trouble to get in. What happened to the town that looked out for the kids. If my neighbors mom saw one of us act-up they’d let my folks know about it.

    Reply
  • 3. Timbo  |  January 26, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Put a fence around the park and lock the gates. Open the gates for Garibaldi Fest and other city sponsored events only. Oh, ofcourse, the gates should also be unlocked for those mature adults who frequent our downtown bars each day and get crap faced drunk. They need to go sit in the park until they sober up. As for the coffe shop and others who don’t want these kids in their shops, just lock your doors at 3:00 pm each day, and they’ll eventually quit coming. Lord knows, we wouldn’t want your establishments to contribute to helping keep these kids stay away from drugs or harmful activities. The police……come on…..Our currnet staff of officers is so busy all day setting up speed traps, that they surely aren’t being bothered with these kids. So what if an officer gets called downtown occaisionally to deal with a brat. Trust me, I work at a place where I constantly see our officers at work. The occaisional downtown call undoubtedly is a breat of fresh air for passing motorists. I for one, remember what it was like to be a teenager. We weren’t wanted at the bowling alley, the mall, Hardee’s….the list was long. It’s probably best if we put the school in lock-down at 3:00 pm, and not allow any child outside without being signed out by the parents. We sure don’t want them in the park or downtown. What would visitors think if they saw these kids there? Perish the thought.

    Reply
  • 4. Geno  |  January 28, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Tom – back in those days, everybody KNEW the kids and the parents. These days – no one knows each other. If a kid misbehaves – who do you go to? And if you do happen to know the parents, they’ll just get mad because you said something about their little darling ( whom they have turned loose on society). Sorry Tom- The Cleavers don’t live here anymore! PARENTS – know where your kids are and require something of them!!!!!

    Reply
  • 5. Timbo  |  January 29, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Sorry Geno, but I think you need to step back in time. Or is it possible that you’re one of those “20 something” year old parents who never really experienced the good ol’ days? Growing up in the ’60’s and ’70’s, kids had plenty to do and plenty of places to do it. We, just like kids today, got in our fair share of mischief and trouble. We weren’t angels….and nobody expected us to be. We also didn’t have media ready to take pictures and lead off the 6:00 o’clock news with the story that “Johhny Joe of Belmont peed in the Stowe Park fountain”, or “Dora Doe and Jane Smith got in a cat fight over Johnny Joe”. In general. we took care of our own problems, business owners knew how to take care of those who were “real” problems, and parents took care of the rest. It’s all of these yuppies coming from out of town and out of state who don’t seem to know what it’s all about, being a kid in a small town, with few places to go where they actually feel welcome. If our businesses, out of towners, and police would deal with these kids in mature, sensible fashion, you might be surprised at how much mature the kids will become.

    Reply
  • 6. Geno  |  January 31, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    LOL – Timbo- I’m probably older than you!. I had a hard time following your post. It seemed to go in several directions.

    Reply
  • 7. Irl  |  February 1, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Geno, Let me add that many of these kids don’t even live in Belmont. They are from Cramerton and Mt. Holly or live out in the county. In the old days, I think Belmont actually had it’s own school system and later merged with the county. Am I right in that?

    Reply
  • 8. Timbo  |  February 2, 2008 at 12:09 am

    Irl, are you trying to insinuate that if the kids are from Cramerton or Mt. Holly that they don’t belong in downtown Belmont? For your information, however, Cramerton and Mt. Holly both have their own middle schools. I have coached many sports over the years and have coached over 500 kids. These kids have come from Belmont, Cramerton, Mt. Holly, McAdenville….and trust me, the kids from Belmont are no better than the kids from surrounding communities.

    Reply
  • 9. Irl  |  February 4, 2008 at 10:43 am

    No, that’s not what I said at all. Re-read the posts. Geno said that we didn’t know the kids any more like we did in the old days. I said that one of the reasons for that is that it use to be a Belmont School system attended by Belmont kids and today it is a county one with kids coming here from outside the city. That’s one of the reasons we don’t know them any more. That’s all it said. There was nothing in my post, or Geno’s, about the quality of the kids or that they can’t use the park. Geno was saying we behaved better in the old days because everyone knew us and our parents and we couldn’t get away with anything. The few times I tried stuff, I sure got caught and paid a heavy price for it. Times have changed. Trust me, I believe the Belmont kids of today are no different than those from the other areas. There are only a few kids that cause the trouble but all the kids pay for it. Please don’t try to find hidden meanings in my posts. It’s not there.

    Reply
  • 10. Geno  |  February 4, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Exactly, Irl.

    Reply

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