Ralston Park expanded to stop ‘loitering’

Ralston Park has been extended to include a vacant lot located at the northeast corner of Park and Grant Streets.

The Lebanon City Council approved amending the Lebanon Municipal Code to extend park regulations to the city-owned property at the Sept. 13 Council meeting.

“That vacant lot is owned by the city and over time it has continued to create issues for us,” said City Manager Gary Marks. “One is that it’s unsightly, but the one that kind of drives my attempt to find a solution now is that there tends to be, and it seems to be increasing, a continuation of folks going onto the property and loitering.”

People go there after the park is closed, between dusk and dawn, he said.

“They bring in trash, they bring in sleeping bags and they generally create problems in the immediate neighborhood,” Marks said.

To combat this, Marks and his staff came up with the idea of extending Ralston Park on to the vacant city-owned lot.

“(The city can) put in an underground irrigation system, put in some sod and then extend to it the park rules of the park, then we can close the park between dusk and dawn,” Marks said.

“We can enforce the rules of no smoking in a park and then we can also clean it up and make it a better appearing property for our community on a high visibility thoroughfare.”

Prior to the Sept. 13 council meeting, the vacant lot was not identified as a future part of Ralston Park.

The city’s strategic plan includes a Ralston Park improvement plan, he said.

“When we review our master plan in the future, I would like to look at that,” Marks said. “But our very crafty attorney figured out that at least in the intermediate time, (we can) extend the park regulations to that property and it would assist us to accomplish the objectives that I just outlined for you.”

Marks said that he hopes by Halloween to have the irrigation, sod and a fence on the north and east end of the lot.

The city can pay for those improvements out of the current appropriations and at minimal expense, he said.

Lebanon Alcohol Impact Enhanced Enforcement Area
The council approved an amendment to the Lebanon Alcohol Impact Enhanced Enforcement Area.

“This is really just a clarification,” said Tre Kennedy, city attorney. “All we’re doing is amending a map to show both of the exclusion areas.”

Kennedy said there has been some confusion because only one area was delineated on a map of the exclusion area.

“The reason being that Lebanon Plaza, when we included that in the exclusion zone, it wasn’t easily identifiable by streets,” Kennedy said. “So I thought it made sense to add a map for that. When the ordinance was originally adopted, we did it by streets.”

He said city Municipal Court Judge Jerry Waite wanted to make sure that if he was going to hold someone in contempt of court, that it was clear where they were not supposed to be.

“We just decided that we would amend the code and have the map show both areas,” Kennedy said.

The new map includes both exclusion areas in Lebanon.

The ordinance states the boundaries of the downtown enhanced enforcement area are Vine Street, on the north, Maple Street on the south, Park Street on the east and Second Street on the west. The boundaries “also include that area commonly referred to as the ‘Lebanon Plaza,’” the shopping center that is anchored by Bi-Mart and Discount Grocery.