Basketball goal getting benched

Published 1:36 pm Friday, August 1, 2008

By Staff
Residents complain about vulgar talk and fights at center
Staff Writer
BELHAVEN — Visitors to the Charlie Smith Community Center in Belhaven will soon no longer be able to play basketball there, at least for now.
The erection of a basketball goal at the center’s park — at the direction of Mayor Adam O’Neal — has resulted in a dispute whether the goal should stay or go.
On Monday night, the Town Council responded to numerous complaints by town residents about the hoop’s effects on behavior at the center. The council voted 4-1 to temporarily take the goal down while the Belhaven Recreation Advisory Committee finds a more suitable site for it.
Complaints have ranged from safety concerns because of its location to inappropriate behavior during pick-up basketball games. Some residents have repeatedly voiced concerns about the increase in vulgar language, fights and public drinking at the center since the hoop was erected.
Lindsey Hubers, a member of the advisory committee, has received many phone calls raising such concerns.
At the meeting, Linda Wilkerson, who lives near the park, said she has frequently heard vulgar language there, including sexual propositions.
She said the noise is excessive during basketball games.
Wilkerson said she has witnessed fights, cars racing on nearby streets and vandalism in her neighborhood since the hoop went up.
Wilkerson said the hoop has brought a rough crowd of grown men to the park, discouraging families from visiting.
Little Tree Brown, a Belhaven resident for eight years, brought three of her grandchildren to the park Wednesday evening.
When asked about the situation, she said, “I was not aware of the problem.”
Brown said she brings her grandchildren to the park from time to time for a change of scenery.
A Belhaven Recreation Department employee, who asked not to be identified, said that problems started shortly after the hoop was put up, but they have subsided in recent weeks.
Police reports reveal the same pattern, according to O’Neal.
O’Neal agreed with the recreation committee that there had been unacceptable behavior at the park, but he said the town had made changes with positive results.
The changes include restricting the playing of basketball on Saturday and Sunday and closing the park daily at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m.
O’Neal said that the public’s calls to take down the hoop and the council’s subsequent decision to do so are “disappointing.”
(The reference to drinking a 40 refers to alcoholic beverages that are sold in 40-ounce containers.)
O’Neal said he frequently goes to the park to shoot hoops.
Hubers said the recreation committee designed Northside Park as a place where older adults could play baseball, tennis, basketball and football. That park is across town from the center.
O’Neal said safety concerns regarding the hoop’s location are reasonable.
The goal is situated at the far end of the park’s volleyball court. In the basketball court’s current location, basketball players could possibly run into the volleyball net, which is raised at center court.
At the meeting, Latham brought forth the idea of taking down the hoop and bringing in a portable basketball goal.
Of the portable goal, O’Neal said, “That is a brilliant idea … total slam dunk.”
According to Latham, before the recreation committee can vote on moving the hoop or replacing it with a portable goal, the hoop must be removed.
Councilman Steve Carawan said he is hopeful the town can find a “suitable corner” at the park for a new goal.
O’Neal is not overly pleased by the council’s vote to remove the hoop.
O’Neal wants town residents to work together to make the park an enjoyable place.