Written by Devon Boen
The picnic tables in Triangle Park have become a point of debate over the past month after Wolf Point City Council voted at its August meeting to have them removed in an attempt to reduce panhandling and criminal activity in the area.
After receiving numerous complaints, the council said, at its September meeting, it would send the issue back to committee to be re-examined.
Mayor Dewayne Jager said there was a lot of community backlash against the idea, but businesses and others in the area have a different opinion, specifically those employed at Town Pump.
The gas station and convenience store is the closest business to the park and consequently deals with problems occurring in the area.
Town Pump manager Noreen Hohman was present at the September city council meeting, but was not able to voice her opinion since the issue was sent back to committee.
When interviewed, Hohman said she not only wanted the tables gone, but wanted the park area as a whole removed as well.
Hohman said she thought the tables being gone would be an improvement, but believed people would still come to the park and sit on the grass.
“We’re out there constantly running [frequenters of Triangle Park] off,” Hohman said.
Hohman said Town Pump would be willing to purchase the land, but explained there is a federal parks grant attached to Triangle Park which could prevent any such transaction from happening.
If the gas station were to purchase the park, Hohman said she would like to expand and offer even more items than it does now.
She said she doesn’t believe one less park in the town is a step in the right direction, but Triangle Park is not the correct location for a safe and enjoyable place for the community to spend time.
“Just taking the park benches out is a Band-Aid. Moving the park to a better location is paramount. Is it going to slow down our crime? We don’t know,” Hohman said.
When asked if she thought no longer selling tall cans of alcohol would lower the number of people loitering in Triangle Park, Hohman said she believed the problem ran deeper than that. She said if they no longer sold that type of alcohol, someone else would and people would continue to linger in the park.
“I challenge our community to find a perfect spot for a park, because we deserve one,” Hohman said.
Gene Pronto, store director at Albertson’s, also weighed in, saying he would hate to see the tables go and he thought more police patrol could help alleviate any problems in the area.
City council member Arden DeWitt, speaking on her personal behalf, said she disliked the panhandling that goes on in Triangle Park and believed removing the tables would reduce the issue. When asked if she thought people would simply sit on the grass if there were no tables, she said she didn’t think that would be the outcome.
A clear solution to the problem has not been established and members of the community with vastly different perspectives are expected to attend the committee meeting, which has not yet been scheduled, regarding the final decision.