In a roundabout way, a suggestion to allow bicycles in a Denham Springs park has now resulted in two drug arrests and a search for state and federal grant money to overhaul the public space.
In April, Councilman Robert Poole asked fellow city leaders to remove the ban on bicycles in 11-acre Willow Wood Park. Poole lives near the site and said he wanted his three young daughters to have a safe place to ride.
At a public hearing the next month, Poole’s neighbors aired their grievances, but most of their comments had little to do with bicycles and instead focused on “shady deals” at the park after dark and what Mayor Gerard Landry generally referred to as “illegal and immoral activity” and what Poole called “nefarious activity.”
The council ultimately decided to table the issue indefinitely to figure out what to do with Willow Wood Park, but city police have stepped up patrols in the meantime.
Earlier this month, officers arrested two men at the park after finding them in possession of oxymorphone, Xanax and a filled syringe that has been sent to a crime lab for analysis, Detective Glenn Lemoine said.
Park visitors used to find beer cans and condoms — “typical kid stuff” — though they have become less problematic since police began their nightly car and foot patrols, Landry said.
The city also expects to install more lighting at the park entrance in the coming weeks, he continued.
Meanwhile, Poole is looking for grants to improve the park and broaden its appeal. Following the public forum and decision to table the issue, the council entered budget season, and work on improving the park stalled.
“There has not been much progress on it,” Poole said Tuesday.
But the councilman said he would seek funding, though no applications have been sent off yet. At a minimum, Poole would like to install a second track to accommodate walkers and bicyclists — who are still banned. He said he’d also like to include other amenities at the relatively barren park, such as a playground or picnic area.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.