Mt. Vernon Register-News

January 4, 2013

Veterans Park unsafe for families to enjoy

Staff Report

MT. VERNON — Editor:

I’m a lifelong resident of Mt. Vernon and have enjoyed our beautiful city park over the years, such as the wild caged animals, roller skating rink, band stand, Fourth of July fireworks, etc., until recently when I started walking my dog daily. However, an undesirable element, whom I’ll refer to as southtown youth, has surrounded the park rendering it an unsafe place for decent families and people to enjoy.

Since only this summer, I’ve been harassed or accosted by roving packs of southtown youth who feel emboldened by their numbers. They are in groups of five to 15. A pack mentality takes over and they do or say anything they want as they have no respect for anything or anyone. By themselves they are quite docile and cowardly. I have witnessed sexual harassment of an 8-year-old girl by a pack of 10 to 20, who was terrified and had never encountered people like this; a pack of five throwing snowballs at walkers; and space limitations prevent me from saying more. The young or old (in their eyes) need to stay away from the park as you are considered weak and prey to them. I’m old, but work out and can handle myself and will not be bullied by them or anyone else. I took after the five youth throwing snowballs and they scattered like cockroaches when you turn on the light.

I am a veteran and past commander of the Mt. Vernon American Legion and am very proud of the Veterans Memorial, but believe that in its current location the veterans whose names are on the bricks (myself included) are being dishonored. I know that my father and uncle whose names are on the memorial bricks would not want to be associated with this park and what is happening there. It needs to be in a place where those who live near still respect the rights of others and decent people can visit the memorial without having to look over their shoulder.

Finally, the park should be renamed Southtown Park as that’s what it has become. I’m sure the southtown leaders will call me a racist, but that would only be true if I were the one who sexually harassed, accosted and bullied southtown youth. I never started any altercation with them and believe in live and let live, unless you step on my rights.

Clyde Standridge

Mt. Vernon