SALEM - City Parks Commission members acknowledged things are being done to curb problems at Centennial Park with drugs, vandalism and general hooliganism, but urged citizens to keep calling police about what they see.
"People have to get involved," Commission Chairman John Panezott said.
By get involved, though, he and commission member Terry Hoopes both said people should not take matters into their own hands or try to confront anyone.
Panezott suggested getting a description, a license plate number, or anything that would help the police department and to call police.
"Our police department does its best for the Salem parks," he said.
During last month's parks commission meeting, Panezott talked in great detail about the vandalism problem and how much it cost recently to fix a portable toilet damaged by vandals at Waterworth Memorial Park.
During the same meeting, city Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey told commission members what she had been told by people who claimed they saw drug transactions at Centennial Park near the pool area. She chairs council's Parks Committee.
Dickey, Panezott and Parks Director Steve Faber met the next day with Police Chief Bob Floor for ideas on what could be done, including working with the Salem-Perry Township Crime Watch to serve as an extra set of eyes for the police in the parks. A meeting remains pending with the head of the volunteer organization, Roe Haskins.
Since that meeting with Floor, the Columbiana County Drug Task Force and Salem Police arranged to have a drug-sniffing dog do an impromptu search at Centennial Park near the pool. No drugs were found.
The police have been trying to keep a closer eye on the park and the county DTF has been conducting surveillance at the park. Residents have been calling in reports for suspicious activity
"I think it's terrific that people are stepping up and calling the police. It seems like more people are getting involved," Hoopes said.
Sally Ragin, a member of the Salem-Perry Township Crime Watch, attended the commission meeting and asked about a security office, but Hoopes said that would require more finances.
He said the ideal would be to have a park ranger who could travel around from park to park to have a presence, ideally someone who would have the same power as police to make arrests, but it's cost-prohibitive.
The parks commission oversees six city parks, with four located inside the city limits and two located outside of the city. The locations inside the city include Centennial Park on the east side, Waterworth Memorial Park on the north side, Kelley Park off of Prospect Street and Mullins Park off of South Lincoln Avenue. The parks commission is also responsible for recreational activities at the Salem reservoir, also known as the Salem Lake, off of Gamble Road near the city's water treatment plant and for Eagleton Glen park off of Eagleton Road near the Teegarden-Centennial Covered Bridge.
"We are trying to do what we can to eliminate some of the problems we've been having," Panezott said.
In other business, Faber announced the pool at Centennial Park is closing Sunday since school begins Monday. The parks department will host a Teen Night Back-to-School Party at the pool at 7:30 p.m. Saturday with hot dogs and other snacks. Call 330-332-7951 for information.
Salem Lake, where people can fish and relax, will close Sept. 30.
Parks Foreman Jim Grimm updated commission members on some of the maintenance activities at the parks, noting they did a day of tree trimming with Colian's Multi-Service of Salem in Centennial Park using a bucket truck and one worker who took turns with Grimm going up in the bucket.
The next meeting will be set for 5 p.m. Sept. 26.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org