By John Hummer
The Columbia Township Park on the west side of Clark Lake will be closing much earlier – at 5 p.m. – for the foreseeable future due to soaring crime at the park. The decision was made by the Columbia Township board who voted unanimously to close the park at that time at their Monday meeting per a recommendation from township police chief Jay Niles. The new hours will take effect immediately after new signs go up in the near future.
“A majority of these incidences are always happening after 4 p.m.,” Niles told the board. “Thus far, we’ve written numerous tickets this summer.” He noted that the Columbia Township Police Department has made “three or four arrests – two of which were for a fight.”
“At the end of the day, being open until 10 o’clock seems to be the issue at hand where a lot of the problems that are occurring are happening after the 4 o’clock hour up until the closing time,” Niles stated. “Therefore, after working with some of the area citizens, talking with business owners, and also hearing a lot of complaints from some of the neighbors about the vehicle traffic, the noises, and people doing things, and despite our maximum effort writing tickets and taking people to jail, it still gets to be an uphill battle.”
Township Clerk Cathy Hulburt asked how the township will get people out of the park at 5 p.m. with kids out in the lake and other park users amidst activity. Niles responded, “We’ll make them,” he said. “The park will be closed, and they will be told. We’re not fighting people at first.”
“It’s going to be an adjustment,” stated Township Supervisor Barry Marsh. He added that one of the businesses and community partners nearby was supportive of the change. “I think we have to try something,” he continued. “We got to eliminate the problems that we’re having. We’re kind of a victim of our own effort to make it wonderful – a little too wonderful.”
Marsh asked Chief Niles to provide an update in the fall on park incidents to see if the new hours improve the situation at the park.