Neighbors at Tulsa’s Gathering Place have some worries as the park gets closer to opening next year.
Their concerns center around activity they’ve seen in other places in River Parks, and they’re looking for assurances those elements won’t be drawn to the family-focused Gathering Place.
Over the weekend, neighbors who live along the River Parks reached out to us about groups of people sleeping on playgrounds, doing drugs and having sex in broad daylight near Denver and Riverside.
One major concern they have is that if it happens there, could it happen at the Gathering Place.
Project manager Jeff Stava says the Gathering Place is going to be one of Tulsa's gems.
But, just up the river from where the park will open, some Tulsans say the homeless are turning their park into a place of illegal activity and lewd actions – and neighbors have pictures to prove it.
Iron Gate executive director Connie Cronley says the homeless issue is happening in other parks, too.
"A mother saw somebody sleeping in the park, and thought 'I wonder if they are homeless, what about my child,’" Cronley said.
According to A Way Home For Tulsa, Point in Time Survey, between January 2015 and January of this year, the homeless population in Tulsa grew by nearly 100 people; and a popular place to gather has been in the parks along the river.
Stava said, "We have a lot of people that are on site all the time, so there will be lots of eyes and ears throughout the park.”
He said security and creating a family-friendly atmosphere is a top priority.
"Tulsa University security department helped advise us on the placement of security cameras, where there really could be possible trouble spots," the project manager said.
Stava said the Gathering Place will have 24/7 security, and inappropriate behavior won't be tolerated.
"Just as it happened in this circumstance, people will get on top of it and provide for that safe park environment," he said.
And while Cronley said it's Iron Gate's philosophy to treat others with courtesy, kindness and respect, “If I see a group of people that might be engaging in something that's concerning to me, I'm calling the police."
River Parks Authority, the agency that oversees the parks, said there is nothing its workers can do about the problems because they don’t have enforcement power. But, the agency encourages people to call police and report problems as they see them.