By Travis Sloat
The new park in Fort Gibson is already becoming a topic of hot debate around town, and it’s not even a month old yet.
The reports of violations of curfew have been numerous, and have ranged from telephone calls to the police to complaints on social media sites like Facebook.
Sergeant Brandon Combs of the Fort Gibson Police Department said that they have received several complaints, and that they’ve established a presence at the park to let violators know that it won’t be tolerated.
“The park will be off limits after curfew,” Combs said. “We will be patrolling after hours to make sure that the ordinance is being withheld.”
The new park, which features a splash pad a skate area, was opened on the same day as the conclusion of the Corn Festival, and has been drawing both positive and negative attention since then.
Corey Seitz, who is both an active skater and the director of Skate Church for Muskogee First Baptist Church, said that he doesn’t think “real” skaters are the ones abusing the curfew.
“The ones that aren’t skaters tend to treat it as a place they can rebel with no supervision,” Seitz said. “They could care less if the park gets shut down, because then they’ll go somewhere else.”
Mayor Steven Hill said he wants everyone to know that if curfew violations continue to be a problem, the park will start to close even earlier.
“Ordinances regarding the curfew have not been changed,” Hill said. “They will be enforced at the park the same way they’ll be enforced anywhere else. If you are 17 or under and you’re out after curfew, you will be asked to go home immediately.”
The curfew is in effect seven days a week. On Monday through Thursday, youth should be indoors by 10 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, that time is pushed back until midnight.
Hill wants to remind citizens of Fort Gibson that if they see someone violating that curfew, they should notify the police immediately. He also said that the resignation of the police chief would have no effect on the frequency of patrol.
Jake Dillard, who is a skating enthusiast and videographer, said that he has noticed a strong police presence since the park has been opened.
“The park is in a really good location,” Dillard said. “It’s unfortunate that no matter where it is located, there is a chance it could attract a bad crowd.”
Seitz agreed that the park was in a great location for police patrol.
“We experienced this same thing in Muskogee, but that park is kind of hidden,” he said. “This park is very visual and very public. If they are violating the rules here, they are probably just doing it for the attention.”