Garland City Council Explores Options for Popular Park

Steven Pickering
June 20, 2018 - 3:12 pm
Windsurf Bay

Steven Pickering

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Members of the Garland City Council are taking a serious look at ways to manage a popular park after the police department posted a humorous video on-line to announce the park would be closed on July 4th.

Most Council Members support the temporary closure of Windsurf Bay Park on Lake Ray Hubbard over the busy weekend in the name of public safety, but are urging the city staff to find ways to keep the park open on future holidays.

“For the 4th of July I don't see that we have a choice,” said City Council Member James Bookhout. “It's frankly unsafe out there on that evening. Anybody that's been out there knows it is. There's fights, there's alcohol...it's a mess and everybody's shooting fireworks off.”

The Garland Police Chief told Council Members that over-crowding at the park was the primary factor in closing it on what has traditionally been the busiest day of the year. Between 7,000 and 8,000 people have used the park on July 4th in the past few years. Police Chief Mitch Bates says that number is simply too large for a park with only one road in or out.

“Getting emergency services in and out of there when you have that many hundreds of vehicles and thousands of people is a challenge,” Chief Mitch Bates said. “Our concern is primarily if something happens.”

Many of the people at the park on July 4th, Chief Bates said, were not Garland residents. “The word has spread…where people come to enjoy a day at the lake…which we understand, but of course we want to do so in a safe manner,” Chief Bates told the Council. “When it gets to the point where we can't get in and out, where we can't get our folks in and out...and the police cars and the fire trucks and ambulances, we're very concerned about that.

Some Council Members are concerned that the park has become a victim of its own popularity.

“We spend all of this time and money on marketing to get people to come to Garland,” Council Member Rich Aubin said. “Why would we tell them Garland is closed for business? To me, this kind of answer to the problem is not a solution at all…and I find it extremely troubling.”

Aubin also expressed concerns about the potential for the park to be closed on other holidays. “I trust our City Manager implicitly, but it seems that this is something that's potentially ripe for abuse,” he said.

City staffers are studying ways to manage traffic at the park and cover the cost of extra security for big events, but told the Council that none of those options would be ready in time for July 4th of 2018.

Council Members supported that process during their recent meeting.

“Unfortunately, closing a park is the last thing you would want to try to do,” said Council Member Jerry Nickerson, “But until we can determine how we manage the crowds and how we provide the appropriate safety services…we're going to have to do this.”