Crime woes may close RV park

"While the city of Port Orchard’s RV park offers a sylvan refuge for travelers, city officials are trying to figure out how to make it not so alluring to partiers.“We went round and round on this, as you can imagine,” Port Orchard City Councilwoman Carolyn Powers told the Council March 25. Powers is the chairwoman for the city’s public property committee.The issue of crime at the park was brought to the city’s public safety committee earlier this month, when Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend took a crime report to committee chairman Tom Stansbery.Last year, Port Orchard police responded to the park for 14 suspect contacts and 10 miscellaneous contacts. They arrested one person for trespassing and another on an outstanding warrant. They responded to a call regarding a suspicious person and two medical emergencies.This year, the police department has responded to calls for one suspicious person and one medical emergency. They have made four suspect contacts and five miscellaneous contacts.That most of the problems at the park occur in the middle of the night is a source of frustration for people living around the park. According to police records from 1999 to the present, about 13.5 percent of calls came in between midnight and 12:59 a.m. About 12.2 percent came in between 1 a.m. and 1:59 a.m.; the same percentage came in between 2 a.m. and 2:59 a.m. The percentage of calls dropped to 2.7 percent and lower after 3 a.m.The public safety committee passed Townsend’s information along to Powers’ public property committee to determine what, ultimately, to do with the property.The park is relatively quiet and secluded and, during the rainy season, largely unused — at least by RVers.Under some evergreen branches off Space 7, some recent park visitor left behind three Busch Ice cans and a tiny baggie commonly used for marijuana.Farther in, just off a trail bordered by ferns, someone disposed of a white, plastic grocery bag with a wet, deteriorating brown paper bag inside containing half-a-dozen empty wine bottles. Deeper into the park, a fallen cedar log marks the beginning of a slope that sweeps down to a misty, green gully. Fallen leaves decay into a reddish-brown carpet and moss makes the air smell like mushrooms. On the ground near the base of a tall cedar, someone left behind a brown beer bottle.The city designed the five-acre, 12-site park for RVers to drive in and stay for free up to five nights; however, there are no hook-ups at the site — meaning no electricity, water or sewer.Alternatives the public property committee might consider to remedy the problems at the park include closing it to RVers and converting it to a day-use nature area or selling the property and using the money to buy a new park elsewhere, though there is some trepidation with the latter suggestion. “My concern is, if we sell that piece of property, what’s going to go in there?” Powers said.They also thought about providing water, sewer and lights and fixing up the RV park to make it more attractive to travelers, though that begs the question of whether the city would then have to charge for use.Councilman Warren Van Zee said the city should fix the park up, particularly since, currently, there isn’t another RV park nearby. He suggested the city charge a fee to pay for up-keep. The parks and recreation department or the police department could send someone up to patrol at night to make sure it’s safe and secure. “I went out after the meeting the other day. It’s not as bad as what I thought from seeing it before. From the perspective of an RVer, it could be a nice RV park, with some water and lights in there,” he said.Powers said city officials will continue to explore options to preserve the space and cut down on crime. “We’re looking for a win-win situation to the problem,” she said. “I think there’s a need for an RV park. Maybe ours isn’t the most perfect, but (it) gives travelers a place to stop for a night.” "

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