Council clarifies ordinances for city parks

Weatherford City Council Tuesday approved amendments to city park ordinances, addressing concerns about facility rentals, firearms and hours of operation, among other topics.

The Weatherford City Council, joined by new Place 3 member Matt Ticzkus, met briefly Tuesday night to go over and approve the adoption of an ordinance with amendments related to the city’s park regulations.

Parks, Recreation and Special Events Director Shannon Goodman said they have redefined the term “city park” to include neighborhood parks, special-use parks, lakefront park districts, athletic fields, facilities and open space and greenbelts.

“It gives us that ability to use the same standard across the city. That allows our police department to regulate those with the same consistency,” Goodman said.

The first amendment clarified park hours of closure. Open hours for all parks are now 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“That encompasses all our hours to standardize everything,” Goodman said. “Previously, we did have a couple of properties, Sunshine Lake and Lake Weatherford, that had midnight [closing times] on them. All the other properties were under one time, 6 to 10, and we wanted to bring everything under a standardized time.”

Place 4 Councilmember Kevin Cleveland suggested the city monitor any feedback from any residents on the parks’ hours.

“One concern that was brought to me ... you take a nurse that works a 12-hour shift and wants to access the trailway to run after they get off work, they may find themselves out there at night wanting to run,” Cleveland said. “The chances are probably — if I worked a 12-hour shift, I probably wouldn’t want to run — but if we have enough people say, ‘Hey, I lost access to the trail because I work day shifts,’ then we might need to look at this.

“But as is, this is probably the best way to start.”

Another concern addressed was the city’s leash ordinance for pets, with clarification made to specify and manage the 6-foot leash regulation at parks and open spaces. Goodman said this has been an issue when the city hosts special events with large crowds.

“We want to make sure that people that are attending those events can still bring their animals but we have an ordinance now that they can keep them on a leash and be at those events,” he said. “It’s not really about enforcing it but it’s about educating them that it’s great to be out here with all these people but make sure your dog is on a leash, that you have control of that animal.”

Goodman also touched on an existing regulation about firearms in parks. The regulation previously stated that no firearms were allowed in parks, but with changes to the open carry laws, that regulation is no longer possible.

“We wanted to address that we still have an ordinance in place [for] hunting and/or discharge of firearms is expressly prohibited in any city park or greenbelt or green area,” Goodman said. “We wanted to really highlight it in our park regulations because it is something that our PD has to deal with on occasion, so we wanted to make sure it was represented in our ordinance.

“As we turn these into rules, it will be something that the public sees and it’ll be stated at all those properties.”

Council also heard from Goodman on adding information on park rentals to the ordinance, which gives the city more authority to regulate reservations of park facilities such as pavilions or ballfields.

“This has been a long time need,” Goodman said. “The big problem we run into with that is — it’s too often, but we wanted to address it — we have someone under a pavilion having some fun, but a pavilion rental comes along and they have to have a conflict with that individual on trying to use that rental that they paid for.

“We also see it in a different light that we might have someone that’s homeless or loitering in the park and they might be laying on a ballfield bench and we don’t have the ability to really run them off because of what the situation is. But if somebody has that field rented, we have the ability to run them off that field because that field is a reservation.”

Goodman said the regulation will not only help park management but police and the citizen who would otherwise have to deal with that.

Other amendments and clarifications included:

• Restricting motorized vehicles to designated streets and lots, to prevent mudding and other damage to property.

• Preventing overnight camping in greenbelts, or areas that have not yet been developed.

• Adding verbiage to regulate and prohibit vehicles and campers kept overnight in parks and parking lots.

• A language change to a regulation already in place addressing speed limits posted in park areas with streets running through them, such as Cartwright Park.

Council approved the adoptions 5-0, as well as the appointment of Allison Baker to fill a vacant position on the Planning and Zoning Commission.

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