116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - An activity known as 'muddin'” is tearing up the grounds and more at Seminole Valley Park leading to some changes, city officials said.
Gates will be locked overnight, and neighbors have agreed to start a 'park watch” to deter teens from wheeling in their 4-by-4s and racing across cross-country trails, pollinator plantings and a runway for model aircrafts, said Daniel Gibbins, Cedar Rapids parks superintendent.
'They like to go muddin',” said Gibbins, noting the culprits are high schoolers and, sometimes, adults. 'It's recreation, but a public park is not the place to do it. They need to look at a private site if they want to go tear up the land.”
Four-wheeler vandalism - largely from pickups and ATVs - is not new but it has reached a peak this year and neighbors and user groups are fed up, Gibbins said. The participants typically come in after dark and after rains and the activity destroys the terrain and leaves the park a muddy mess, he added.
'They did some doughnuts and, of course, just tore it up,” Plenny Bates, 83, a member of the Quiet Fliers radio controlled aircraft club, said of the group's airstrip.
The club, which uses the 202-acre park a few times a week, has seen its black fabric runway - which is ideal for planes with smaller wheels - destroyed at least twice already this year, Bates said.
The damage to the airstrip and cross-country course, along with concerns about the in-the-works 21-acre pollinator habitat zone, prompted a meeting with user groups, neighbors, city staff and police to find a solution in recent weeks.
Dave Blankenship, of the Parks and Recreation Foundation Board and founder of an outdoor education center nearby, attended the meeting of 30 to 40 people in June.
'They are going down there using four wheelers, 4-by-4s, using it basically as a recreational mudtrack,” Blankenship said. 'They are doing this after it rains when a lot of damage can be done.”
City staff say police have been doing what they can to patrol the area, which is on the outskirts of town, and are now turning to neighbors to help curb the vandalism.
'In August, nightly park gate closures will be implemented as a tactic to reduce damage to park resources, the cross-country course and newly installed pollinator zones,” city parks department spokeswoman Gail Loskill said. 'Due to staffing resources and contract expense, the neighborhood will act as gate management and park watch volunteers.”
Vehicle access is from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and walk-in access is allowed per city ordinance from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Afternoon rentals at the pavilion are limited to 8:30 p.m.
'This effort will be in effect until Oct. 15 when the gate is locked for the season,” Loskill said. 'At that time, parks will assess the success of the program with (the police department) and the neighborhood.”
Loskill said the effort will come with a communications plan and signs to inform the public of the new gate lock time of 9 p.m. Owners of vehicles locked in will have to return the following day to retrieve their vehicle, she said. Park users and neighbors, or tow truck drivers called to retrieve vehicles stuck in the mud, are being urged to dial 911 if they spot the illegal activity, Loskill and Gibbins said.
l Comments: (319) 339-3177; email@example.com