Written by Devon Boen
A definitive decision has finally come regarding the issue of removing the tables from Triangle Park after a Wolf Point City Council committee meeting Oct. 30.
Several council members and numerous members of the community were present at the committee meeting to discuss what has become a somewhat controversial issue in Wolf Point.
At its August meeting, the council originally approved removing the picnic tables to reduce vagrancy and public drinking.
Triangle Park is situated near Albertson’s and Town Pump adjacent to U.S. Hwy. 2 through Wolf Point and people drinking or begging for money from customers of the nearby businesses often congregate in the area.
The council hoped removing the tables would reduce issues of that nature in the area and were met with both support and resistance from community members.
Several complaints led the council to bring the topic back for consideration. Some members of the community believed the city shouldn’t be deprived of a park simply because some people were causing disturbances. One local resident questioned why this was the only solution.
“There’s a problem. There’s a real big problem, but I don’t think moving the tables is the answer. I think the problem is the people that are there, not the tables,” said one Wolf Point resident.
Mayor Dewayne Jager commented on how the problem was deeper than the picnic tables.
“It’s a wonderful park. It’s used for what it’s supposed to be used for. I’d like to see the tables stay there, but we have got to do something with that area over there. I get lots of complaints about the panhandling and drinking near Town Pump and the Albertson’s parking lot.”
The sentiment wasn’t far off the mark when Wolf Point Police Chief Jeff Harada told the council the Wolf Point Police Department had responded to 62 calls regarding Triangle Park alone from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1 of this year, roughly seven times each month.
Harada stated that public intoxication and loitering were misdemeanors, so the offenders had to be cited and released, rather than arrested. This puts the WPPD between a rock and a hard spot since there is no effective way to permanently remove offenders from the park.
Jager suggested the WPPD increase patrol around Triangle Park as a temporary solution.
In the midst of the picnic tables controversy, Town Pump manager Noreen Hohman came forward and said Town Pump would like to purchase the land Triangle Park sits on and potentially expand the gas station and parking lot, but admitted there were roadblocks to the plan.
Hohman attended the meeting and once again voiced her company’s interest in purchasing the land, but was informed that the city had Triangle Park on a grant of servitude and it was federally funded, so it was not possible for the city to sell the land.
The committee concluded the meeting by agreeing to keep the tables in the park, but stressed the constant issues with vagrancy and public drinking needed to be addressed and solutions would need to be created in the near future.