FALLS CITY — Parking will be restricted at Michael Harding Park in Falls City, the city park nearest to the falls on the Little Luckiamute River.
The Falls City City Council decided in a close vote to place cement barricades or a gate to prevent vehicle access inside the park. Mayor Terry Ungricht cast the deciding vote in favor of shutting off vehicle access, citing incidents in which people were reportedly hurt or felt threatened.
“I would usually vote no, but with the stuff that has been happening, in not only that park, but our other lower park, there has to be a message sent that those are city parks open to everyone,” Ungricht said. “When the man who services the toilets is accosted for doing his job and they are talking about pulling our portable toilets out, we have a problem.”
Ungricht said another serious incident was reported recently in which a mother and toddler had rocks thrown at them at the park. The victim decided not to press charges.
The topic of restricting cars at the park was discussed at a town hall meeting on Aug. 4, and councilors in attendance said the opinions expressed were about 50-50.
Joining Ungricht in voting “yes” were councilors Jenn Drill, Tony Meier and Julee Bishop. The other three councilors, Lori Jean Sickles, Dennis Sickles and Gerald Melin, said the vote should have waited for more feedback from the community, such as a survey sent out in water bills.
“I would like to know what the general population thinks,” Lori Jean Sickles said. “Really, I don’t see how that hurts to do a survey.”
Dennis Sickles said hearing more feedback probably wouldn’t change his mind about the need to close the park to vehicles, but he believes those against the move should be heard.
Drill said the subject has been debated for a long time and it’s time to do something on behalf of neighboring property owners.
“If this was my home and I had been coming to the council for a year and asking the same thing, I would be pretty frustrated at this point,” Drill said. “It’s time to take action. We know it’s a problem and it’s been a problem for years.”
Ungricht said he will provide cost estimates and plans for installing the barricades at the council’s September meeting.
In other business, the council:
• Heard that the city received an approximately $70,000 grant to help purchase the property on the north side of the falls on the Little Luckiamute River. The final amount will be known in September and it will be used to pay off the loan used to purchase the property on behalf of the Falls City Alliance.