Stan Robison, chairman of St. Mary Parish Recreation District 3 in Bayou Vista, said the park will be open for normal hours this weekend but will have Bayou Vista Community Center staff members monitoring the park throughout the day and sheriff’s deputies monitoring the park at night.
“We had an incident out there last Saturday night. The sheriff’s department was called out right away … and they’re investigating that right now,” Robison said. Center personnel found out about another incident Thursday after a video was posted on Facebook of the incident, he said. “As soon as we found out about it, we called the sheriff’s department,” Robison said.
The park opened in November. Robison said the park is already “too small” to accommodate the 200 to 300 people at the park on weekends.
“That may cause some of the problems when you have that many kids in one place,” he said.
The park did close at 5 p.m. Thursday in response to the incident but reopened Friday. The park is normally open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., he said.
Robison visited the park around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, shortly before the park closed, to meet with parents and park-goers to discuss the issues.
The sheriff’s office is increasing its presence around the park in response to the fighting incidents, and is currently investigating the incidents, said spokeswoman Traci Landry. The sheriff’s office had already launched an investigation of other incidents at the park before the videos were posted online, Landry said. Landry would not comment further on the details of the investigation as it is ongoing, she said.
The park also is monitored by live security cameras, which capture all areas of the park, which can be accessed by park staff and law enforcement, Robison said.
“We’re well aware of the problems. I go out there a lot, and I talk to a lot of parents who are there … The vast, vast majority of parents out there say it’s a fantastic idea, keeps the kids off the street for the most part,” he said.
The incidents that have occurred have involved just “a handful kids” and the majority of kids go to the park “to have a good time,” Robison said.
He and park staff are working to form a “coalition of young adults who ride out there on a regular basis … and get them more involved … in watching out for each other and watching out for the younger kids,” he said.
Closing the skate park at 5 p.m. instead of at 10 p.m. could cause other problems, he said. “A lot those kids, if they’re not there (at the skate park), if we close it at 5, they’re going to be on the streets riding. And that’s not a good thing,” Robison said.
As of Friday morning, Robison said a decision has not been made yet regarding possible early closures at the park next week.