Aug 22, 2007

A Violent Summer At Glen Otto Park

You can describe this summer at Troutdale's Glen Otto Park with a few words: tons of garbage, drunks, drugs, and violence.

I just missed a meeting this morning where Troutdale police officers discussed a significant increase in violence at Troutdale's Glen Otto Park. There have apparently been several incidents involving several dozen, if not hundreds of people that have turned violent this summer. I talked with the officers for a few minutes after the meeting. They said this has been the worst summer for violence at the park in recent memory.

Sadly, it's a few people who are ruining a fine family park. I'm not sure I'd want to take small children down to Glen Otto's beach during the busy times. Sure, the AMR lifeguards are down there, but it's not their job to enforce the park's no-dog, no-alcohol, no-drug policy. And certainly not with hundreds of young, hostile partygoers.

Even the officers I talked to today have said they've had to have every available officer down there several times this summer. And even then it's not enough when faced with a much larger crowd of hostile folks.Think about it- a dozen police officers versus 100-200 drunk and hostile people. And when they're down there getting the crowds under control, the rest of Troutdale has much less police protection.

The Troutdale officers told me they've conducted license plate surveys of cars parked at Glen Otto this summer. Under 20% were Troutdale residents. Which means 80% of folks visiting the park are from elsewhere. I've been down at the park in the evenings after a warm day. You wouldn't believe the massive quantities of garbage, beer and alcohol containers, you name it, that are left every DAY. Our city employees clean up this mess every day. Some places along the river, such as the sand bars, are not accessible without a boat. The garbage remains there for days! Our precious Sandy river is being literally trashed.

What does this mean for Glen Otto Park? It will probably mean no more free parking. The city is going to have to find a way to pay for more clean-up and enforcement help. There's a proposal floating around to charge $3-5 for parking. We might also look at ways to charge a fee for access to the beach itself, because there are large numbers of folks who ride Tri-Met to the park.

But even implementing user fees at the park might not work. The beach across the Sandy River from Glen Otto Park is not in our city limits. Even now, hundreds of folks drag their beer coolers across the shallow Sandy River to get to Glen Otto Park. We will need to figure out how to include the other side of the river into the park's boundaries if a use fee will be imposed.

If the violence, drug and alcohol abuse can't be controlled, I hate to think about it, but we might have to consider a closure of the beach. If we don't get a handle on this, I fear that folks will get hurt, or killed by the stupid, violent idiots who are ruining what was once a jewel of a park.

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