EDITORIAL | Council was right to weigh proposed park hours carefully

According to Langley’s top cop, in the past two weeks alone approximately 40 used syringes have been found discarded at Seawall Park.

It’s hard to believe that drug use in little ole Langley has risen to such a level, that people appear to be regularly shooting up in one of the city’s crown jewels. Yet, we don’t doubt the testimony of Chief David Marks. He’s a solid community leader and a good cop. Nevertheless, the council’s decision this week to delay the adoption of new hours for all city parks, something Marks says may assist officers in the battle against drugs, was the right one. Police should have the tools they need to do their jobs, but this is a complex issue and we’re not convinced a one-size-fits-all solution is the right one.

For starters, a midnight to 6 a.m. closure of Seawall Park seems reasonable — it’s an isolated area that may be dangerous if junkies really are roaming about — but the same hours for Cascade Park and the benches overlooking the marina seem silly. Should someone really get cited for enjoying the view simply because they’re doing it under the stars? We don’t think so.

It’s also worth noting that Langley may be behind other municipalities when it comes to park hours, but it’s kinda cool that we still live in a community where people can take a late-night dip if they desire. For the record, we think that’s risky, not just for the swimmer but for the first responder who may one day have to perform a rescue in the event of an emergency.

We also wonder about the extent of the problem. Drug abuse, particularly heroin, is a legitimate issue on Whidbey Island and throughout the state. Its rise is frightening. But for drug addicts, people who shoot up one or more times a day, 40 needles in two weeks is chump change. Do the math — that’s about three syringes a night. It’s not unreasonable to think this is the work of several users or even a single individual. Of course it could be more, we don’t know. The point is that it seems unlikely 40 different users are converging on Seawall Park every two weeks.

It is hard to argue for occasional and late-night use of city parks, however, when weighed against issues as paramount as public safety. That even a single person might step on a needle and contract a deadly virus seems too hefty a price to pay, even in the name of preserving Langley’s village charm.

That something needs to be done is clear, particularly at Seawall Park. But is a citywide change really needed? We hope it doesn’t come to that. Again, the city council should weigh the pros and cons carefully and look for alternatives. It would be a shame if big city problems, or the appearance of them, took away the very things that make Langley a small town.