Codifying village park rules

Striving to create safe and relaxing public spaces in Cedarhurst and Lawrence

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During the summer, parks in the Five Towns are filled with the laughter of children. Andrew J. Parise Cedarhurst Park hosts a series of concerts, the Lawrence Yacht & Country Club and the playground at Zion Park in that village are frequented by many, and Atlantic Beach has its tennis center and eight village beaches.

In addition to providing residents with a place for summer fun, it’s also the responsibility of villages to help ensure that visitors are safe. At the Aug. 6 village meeting, the Cedarhurst board of trustees announced that it planned to vote on a series of regulations for Cedarhurst Park at its September meeting. No date has been scheduled.

The board offered the two people who attended the meeting the opportunity to suggest any regulations they would like to see added to the village code, but neither did. The list of new rules includes the banning of littering and smoking as well as other potential hazardous activities, like biking on the walkways or climbing trees or fences. “We’re not looking to get people in trouble,” Mayor Benjamin Weinstock said. “We just want the code behind us if anything comes up.”

The current code lists just five prohibited activities, including being in the park between the hours of 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. –– unless there is a sanctioned event –– and bringing along dogs or other animals. Permits are required to use the facilities, such as the gazebo or the baseball field. Anyone who violates any of the regulations is subject to a fine not exceeding $500, according to the code.

Weinstock said that codifying the new regulations was prompted by questions received from a resident about hosting a barbecue at the park. The village had no ordinance explicitly banning barbecues, and wanted to make sure the prohibition would be clearly stated. Weinstock said that officials were concerned about careless people failing to dispose of coals properly, “I learned in law school that my right to stretch out my arm ends where your nose begins,” he said.

In Lawrence, the parks and recreation section of the village code focuses on the Lawrence Country Club because of its size and prominence, and lists rules for what the villages calls public spaces, including places of amusement (such as the recreation center), sidewalks, schools, streets, transportation facilities and Zion Park. A majority of the park’s rules are posted on signs, and they include prohibitions on bare feet and dogs.

Village of Lawrence Trustee Syma Diamond also serves as the board’s liaison to its parks commission, which is appointed by the village board to make recommendations to enhance the country club and Zion Park.

Noting Zion Park’s smaller size and its one amenity — the playground — Diamond highlighted the reason for more rules at Cedarhurst Park than at the Lawrence facility. “Cedarhurst Park caters to a very different crowd than Zion Park,” Diamond said. “There’s a younger crowd at Zion because it’s a playground, versus a baseball field.”

Atlantic Beach’s beaches offer residents and their guests quite a bit of open space. The majority of the recreation section of the village code deals with who is allowed to use the beaches and boardwalk, but it also includes rules prohibiting dogs, similar to Cedarhurst and Lawrence, and is ahead of both in banning smoking.

“The purpose of the regulations are to help maintain a level of respect,” Atlantic Beach Mayor George Pappas said. “We want to keep the area clean and safe.”

While some people view regulations as an infringement, village officials explain that they have a responsibility to maintain public safety. “The whole idea of the parks is to have a place that’s publicly available for recreation and relaxation,” Weinstock said.