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BOARD CHANGES PARKS' CLOSING TIMES -- AGAIN

It could be called the story of "As the Clock Turns" in East Aurora's parks.

Just two months after the village changed Hamlin Park's closing time to dusk -- to address neighbors' complaints about teens using the park as a hangout late into the night -- that has all changed again.

Now the Village Board has a two-tiered park closing time that is the same for all of its three parks, including ones at South Street and Warren Drive.

After a public hearing Monday, the board voted, 6-0, to adopt a later summer closing of 10 p.m. for all village parks from May 15 to Sept. 15 and a 9 p.m. winter closing from Sept. 16 through May 14.

Some residents asked for more police presence in the parks. Village trustees also lobbied for that at the same time they adopted revised park closing times.

"I think it's up to our Police Department to step up our patrols," Trustee Terrance Yarnall said. "Maybe they have to have a police officer down there."

Contacted Monday night at home, Village Police Chief William Nye said he hoped to have an officer regularly patrol Hamlin Park next summer in the evenings and also use the police satellite station at the park recreation building more often.

Mayor David DiPietro offered the two-tiered option as an alternative to year-round dusk closing hours that were enacted for Hamlin Park early in the fall after some residents petitioned the board for an earlier park closing due to noise, loud cars racing through the neighborhood, littering and swearing by teens.

Two weeks ago, the board was eyeing a 10 p.m. closing for all parks but changed it it to a 10 p.m. summer park closing and a 9 p.m. closing the rest of the year.

"Hopefully, the (police) enforcement will pick up and the problems will be alleviated," DiPietro said.

Some critics of the dusk closing argued that they wouldn't have been able to take their children sledding or ice skating at Hamlin Park if the park closed at dusk.

Part of the park issue stemmed from an unclear village policy on when the parks officially close. Over the summer, it wasn't unusual for the tennis court lights to stay on until 11 p.m. or midnight or for the basketball court in Hamlin Park's grove area to stay lighted until 11 or 11:30 p.m.

"There was never a set time for that park," DiPietro said.

With the Police Department short three officers last summer due to injuries, there was a shortage of patrolling in the park area, the mayor said. "They were unable to staff the park like they usually do."

Trustee Christine Peters said she would like to see use of the satellite police office at Hamlin Park return to what it once was.

It also would be good if an alternative place was offered to teens once the parks closed in the evening, such as the Boys & Girls Club, Trustee Lowell Dewey said.

DiPietro noted that the club already was open some evenings last summer and planned to expand its summer evening hours next year.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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