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Posted: November 23, 2011 12:00 a.m.

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City plan for park in Oxford Square

Oxford city officials plan to build a park for young children and parents on a vacant city-owned wooded lot in the Oxford Square neighborhood, though some residents there fear it would be taken over by teenagers if not patrolled well.

The City Council held a hearing Monday night on rezoning the plot, which is on Oxford Way, to parkland, and several residents questioned councilors and Mayor Jerry Roseberry on how the city plans to enforce its intention that the park be for children under the age of 12.

"There are lots of kids there over 12 years old and they will try to take it over," said resident Simon Perryman. "If parents aren't there to supervise, then there's going to be conflict. That's my concern."

Roseberry said the plans for the park include equipment aimed at younger children and benches and tables for parents. The police can patrol and the city can create fines to address some concerns, but ultimately it will be up to the neighborhood to watch over the park and call when they see problems, he said.

"The community is going to have to police it and call the police" if teenagers are misusing the park, Roseberry said. Additionally, security lights are an option for when the park is closed after sunset, he said.

Clark Miller, the city manager who previously had been chief of police, said the city does not have the capability to patrol the park at night. "During the daylight hours it's not a problem," he said. "If young people are sitting there overnight, they may go undetected."

The city could pass an ordinance giving police and Sheriff's deputies the ability to fine people in the park after dark, he said.

Resident J.D. Godfrey, who attended the hearing in order to relay the approval of another resident who was out of town, said he was in favor of the park and seemed satisfied with officials' plans.

"I'm certainly in favor of it now that I've heard how it is to be managed and the age group identified for using it," he said.

Roseberry said he hoped the park would be the first of several similar neighborhood parks around the city for residents to gather for cookouts and to give smaller children a place to play. He specifically said they would not install basketball hoops or other equipment for teenagers.

"We'd put in equipment for little kids, something a 15-year-old wouldn't be interested in," he said. "It can't be perfect, but all we can do is try."

The city had budgeted $70,000 for parks in this fiscal year's budget, though he said they did not intend to use the entire budget for the Oxford Square park.

Roseberry said the city arborist would survey they trees to determine which to keep and which to clear, and the Department of Public Works would need to address a drainage issue.

The city will hold another public hearing on the park on Dec. 5, just before the City Council's regular meeting, to discuss and field community opinion on what type of park to build.

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