Chief: Footpath Lights Will Attract Parkgoers After Curfew
A resident wrote to Lansdale Parks and Recreation requesting lit paths in Wissahickon Park at night. Lansdale Police Chief Robert McDyre said borough parks close at dusk and lights along a footpath would invite people to violate park curfew.
A footpath in Wissahickon Park that runs from Gettysburg and Norway drives to Valley Brook Drive near Knapp Elementary School will not be improved with illumination at night, per a resident's request.
Lansdale Police Chief Robert McDyre said to the public safety committee this month that all of Lansdale Borough's parks close at dusk anyway, so lighting is not necessary.
"We changed the curfew to at dark. We’re trying to accommodate to put lighting in the park for somebody who uses the park in vioation of the ordinance. Here, we are encouraging someone to use the park in violation," he said.
A resident living on Valley Brook Way has corresponded with parks and recration director Carl Saldutti for the past five weeks over this issue. Saldutti and the parks and recreation committee this month discussed the issue as well.
Saldutti said the resident wrote to him, stating he has a dog that needs to be walked many times a day and an evening.
"That path is so dark at night, as it is potentially dangerous for kids and adults at night," Saldutti read from the resident's email. "In today's times, it can lend itself to a place where it can be a scary place where the days are short and it gets dark so early. I was hoping you'd consider installing lights along the footpath so it wouldn't be dangerous."
Saldutti said he talked to McDyre, and both agreed that the lights are not reasonable for the path.
Saldutti responded to the resident, stating that council adopted an ordinance in September 2012 amending the park hours. Parks, with exception of pools, ballfields and lighted courts, are open to the public from sunrise to sunset. Saldutti said the changes should be imposed in the park sites in the near future.
Those answers didn't sit well with the resident.
Saldutti said the resident felt those were not answers to general public safety.
"If someone would get hurt on that path, I would wonder if Lansdale would be held liable for neglect," Saldutti read from the email. "Just because the park is closed doesn't mean you should disregard general public safety."
Saldutti said he and McDyre agreed that the park is closed after dark and no one should be in the interior of the park anway.
"We have other footpaths in Stony Creek Park, White's Road Park that aren't illuminated," Saldutti said.
"If you start illuminating them, you're inviting them into the park," said Councilman Jason Van Dame.
Saldutti said he suggested the resident use sidewalks around the park for exercise for himself and his pet after dark. Streetlights, he said, provide illumination and make pedestrians more visible.
Councilman Rich DiGregorio said that there are lights that exist near the basins of the park, closer to Lakeview Drive.
Saldutti said those lights are grandfathered into the ordinance, as the parks used to be open until 10 p.m.
Councilwoman Mary Fuller, who chairs parks and recreation committee, said the borough would not be responsible if someone is injured after curfew in the park.
"I'm not lawyer," she said, "but I'm thinking if the park is closed, the borough is not liable if somebody's in the park afer it's closed."
DiGregorio said a polelight on the other side of a bridge in the park could possibly be tapped for a light. McDyre said there there is no electric service in that part of the park, and to install lighting would be costly.
"You're talking a lot of money. You have to set up a meter account, Carl's got to pay it, you have to trench underground. We're talking thousands of dollars," he said.
McDyre also recommended walkers use sidewalks at night, which are lit and safe.
"I'd hate to start a precedent that we light up the parks and invite people to violate curfew at night," he said.
Mayor Andy Szekely agreed with the decision.
"You're inviting problematic teenagers," he said.
McDyre said that area of the park is considered a small pocket park which children use to go back and forth from the school.
"We patrol it heavily," he said. "We can shine our light right through there."