Drug use, vandalism at Clinton park prompt petition

CLINTON — Needles. Drug use. Broken glass, beer bottles and cans, stolen furniture and pillows. Sleeping dens for homeless people.

Steer clear of Dan Porter Memorial Park, Clinton residents say, especially after dark.

Fed up with vandalism, drug use and other illegal activity at the county park, hundreds of Clinton residents and friends of Dan Porter Memorial Park have signed a petition asking the county to clean it up.

The park, named after a former Clinton community leader and a one-time treasure for baseball clubs in the 1950s, is a former shell of its glory days.

Clinton residents are asking the county to clear some of the underbrush in the park to open up views into the wooded part of the property. They have also asked the county to look at installing additional nighttime lighting at the park.

The petition also asks the county to put in a gate that would be closed at night. Residents have offered to volunteer to open and close the gate.

More than 300 people signed the petition and it was presented to County Commissioner Phil Bakke earlier this week.

Bakke met with concerned residents and members of Clinton’s Chamber of Commerce Tuesday to discuss the park and other issues. He said he wants to help.

“It seems like these ideas would go a ways to reduce vandalism,” Bakke said.

“It passes the common sense test. It seems all three items could be done without having to expend a huge amount of money,” he added.

Overall, Bakke said users of the park liked what they saw at the park.

“The people in the petition expressed happiness that the playground in the park was very nice. The main part of the park has been kept up,” he said.

“But because of the woods and the availability for people to have anonymity, you can’t see back there easily. They feel that has led to vandalism of the restrooms, which is an ongoing expense for people in the county,” Bakke said, adding that some parents don’t want their kids to go to the park because of the problems.

“It is a safety issue,” said Lance Biershenk.

Biershenk and others said clearing away the underbrush would increase visibility in the park and hopefully that would mean an end to problems there.

The issue is not a new one, said Staci Hull, an employee at the Cozy Roadhouse.

“I have been doing the park cleanup for about eight years,” Hull said.

Hull and her team find at least five to 10 needles and they carry two to three large bags of trash out every year before Easter.

“We’d go there the night before the annual Easter egg hunt. We would try to get all the needles, condoms and broken glass. We try to get it cleaned up so that no one gets hurt,” she said.

It is not just trash and drug paraphernalia that concerns park officials, however. Vandalism is an ongoing issue.

“The bathrooms are a continuing repair for us because vandals get in there. We’re always repairing the bathrooms. They tore apart part of our playground,” said Betty Kemp, director of the county’s General Service Administration.

Kemp agreed that removing some vegetation may help solve some of the problems.

“Cleaning up the brush would be a priority, cutting down some brush so that some light could come in,” she said.

The county hasn’t examined how much more lighting would cost.

Bakke said the county is trying to get a grant to update its parks plan, and the update could help bring park issues to the forefront.

“Certainly park security would be a part of that plan,” he said.

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or

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