Conneaut Township Park gets tough on after-hours visitors

Signs were erected recently at Conneaut Township Park advising motorists to pay attention to the park’s hours of operation. Park officials will tow away vehicles caught on the property after hours.

CONNEAUT — Officials at Conneaut Township Park are taking a no-nonsense attitude towards motorists who overstay their welcome at the popular lakefront recreational area.

Signs were recently posted advising people that vehicles will be towed if found on park property after the stated closing time. A growing number of people are ignoring the “closed-at-dusk” requirement posted at each entrance to the park, said Gary Coxon, a park commissioner.

“We’ve got to show people you can’t ignore the rules,” he said. “You’ve got to take the rules seriously.”

The park’s superintendent is spending too much time trying to track down the owners of vehicles still in the park after hours, Coxon said.

“[The superintendent’s] job is hard enough as it is,” he said. “Trying to keep the park looking nice is hard. When you have your superintendent out there until 1 or 2 a.m. looking for people, that’s crazy.”

Park officials have conferred with police and municipal officials on the matter, Coxon said.

“Right now we’re working closely with the city,” he said. “We will file charges when people don’t abide by the rules.”

The new initiative applies only to vehicles left in the park after dark. Officials will not take action against people who walk into the park after hours.

“We don’t want to be totalitarian about it,” Coxon said. “People enjoy the park at night. We just want to keep traffic out of there.”

A number of safety concerns are behind the no-vehicle policy, Coxon said.

“What if something happens to someone?” he said. “We can’t ignore it.”

The park’s basketball courts will remain illuminated until 10 p.m. Players who want to use the courts after dark must park in the small lot adjacent to the courts that is accessed from Lake Road, officials said.

Park commissioners publicized the tougher policy with a posting on social media.

“Due to the ongoing problems of not being able to get cars out of the park at closing, we are going to start towing all vehicles that are not removed from the park in a timely manner,” according to the posting. “It is something we hope we do not have to do, but we are tired of looking for the owners and having vehicles driving around the gates after we finally give up looking for them or telling people [repeatedly] they have to leave and being ignored.

“The park closes at DUSK [their emphasis] which is when it starts to get dark. We have hung new signs stating when the park closes and where you can pick up your vehicle if towed and the rates. Thank you.”

Some vehicle owners caught behind gates have damaged grass trying to drive around the gates, Coxon said.

The park has always experienced vehicles that linger too long, but the problem seems to be worsening, Coxon said. A growing number of people are also becoming aggressive when told to leave.

“Sometimes [the superintendent] is treated rudely and profanity is used,” Coxon said. “Some people have made up their minds it’s a ridiculous rule and they can do what they want.

That attitude is disturbing, Coxon said. “Maybe it’s the times we now live in,” he said.

Park personnel will also be on the lookout for visitors who ignore the no-dogs-allowed policy, too, Coxon said. Signs advising people to keep their pooches out of the park are posted throughout the property.

Only a fraction of the park’s thousands of annual visitors flaunt the rules, but the frequency of the offenses merits a response, Coxon said.

“One half of one percent [of the people] are violating [the after-dark rule], but those are becoming bothersome,” he said. “If you have rules, you’ve got to enforce them. Otherwise it’s pointless.”

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