AUDREY PARENTE – STAFF WRITER
January 10, 2011
HOLLY HILL – Children romping on playground equipment at Sunrise Park giggled and shouted in the dark recently, under the watchful eyes of their aunt, Beth Thomason.
On the same night a woman’s low voice nearby murmured about her drug problem. She sat at a picnic table with a camp lantern glowing on nearly 20 adult faces, many under hoodies and knit caps in the cold. Thomason said she knew it was a self-help group, because she once attended similar meetings in support of a relative. No incidents occurred Friday at Sunrise. But recent conflicts over park use by large groups caused citizens to request commissioners look at stronger regulations for the city’s parks.
Park rules and policies will be discussed at a public workshop 5 p.m. Tuesday in City Commission Chambers.
According to a flier on a City Hall table, anonymous self-help groups meet daily at Sunrise and other Parks in Holly Hill. AA Daytona Beach Meetings in Daytona.
In Holly Hill, park reservations by large groups aren’t required, but an option to assure a spot is available for $25, said Acting City Manager Mark Barker.
An individual at Friday night’s meeting, who didn’t want a name used because the group prefers anonymity, said the number of people at a meeting varies and many who attend are required to be there by drug court.
Commissioner Rick Glass said he’s anticipating help from the city attorney at the workshop. “I have had many, many people call, and I just got off the phone with a citizen who was talking about it,” Glass said. “They want (sign-up) procedures put in place for parties – basic policies like other cities have, where parties of 20 or 25 people have to pull a permit.” Park regulations for municipalities at municode.com show other cities, including Ormond Beach and Edgewater, regulate many issues from conduct and park hours to penalties. Barker said “right now, to control certain behaviors,” other regulations are used – not park specific – such as laws covering alcoholic beverages, firearms and public safety issues.
Commissioner Liz Towsley Patton said the issue has been discussed before – not at length. “We will look at all sides and decide,” she said. “I am open to that, but, do I think we need to shut parks off to groups or go through a certain process? No.” Commissioner Donnie Moore said: “As it stands right now . . . I do see some issues, and we can work on that.” Moore said requiring reservations by large groups might be considered, but he also hopes to designate playgrounds as non-smoking areas. Commissioner Roy Johnson said he aims to find “what is best for everybody,” but not “restrict people from using the park.” A local business operator across from the park believes the city should regulate park use. “I am in a little store where people stop to get their whatnots, and they say what’s on their mind. I have heard grumblings,” said Mr. Sanderford. He spends seven weekdays operating Holly Hill River Mart, and said local residents complain about meeting groups monopolizing the park and the parking. The complaints resulted in a petition asking city lawmakers to look at the issue, he said.
Former mayoral candidate Steve Smith presented the petition. Barker said an unsigned copy of the petition is on record. Smith said his trouble at the park began while running for mayor. He reserved the pavilion once a week for 10 weeks, having cookouts and campaigning, but encountered harassment and disagreeable persons in a group meeting at the park pavilion with no reservation, he said. “The city should limit (the number of) times,” of use by large groups, Smith said, and all groups “should be submitting some remittance to the city for the maintenance of the park.”
Smith also had a solution.
“The thing that is missing is, we don’t have a leisure services or parks director, so there is nothing scheduled.” Organized activities would help, he said.