The Town Council and Mayor Danielle Moore said Tuesday they support a staff recommendation to close Bradley Park and the Lake Trail at night to discourage criminal activity.
The park and trail will be closed each evening from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m., the council decided.
The overnight closures cannot take effect until the rule is drafted into a proposed ordinance and approved by the council on two separate votes. The measure is expected to go before the council for initial approval next month and could take effect upon a second vote of approval the following month, according to Town Attorney John Randolph.
Police Chief Nicholas Caristo recommended the council consider overnight closures of the park, situated next to the entrance to the Flagler Memorial (north) Bridge, and the popular Lake Trail recreational path, which extends along the lagoon from the Sailfish Club southward to the Town Marina. The trail borders Bradley Park and many other properties, most of which are lakeside residences.
Caristo said he’s recently heard complaints from residents about suspicious people and activities occurring in the park and on the trail. He said criminals are known to use the trail after dark to avoid police and public scrutiny while searching for opportunities to commit thefts and burglaries. Bradley Park is a convenient access point for the criminals because of its proximity to the bridge and free parking nearby.
“We have surveillance cameras [in the area] and will be adding additional cameras,” Caristo said. “But, solely as a crime prevention measure, I think it’s helpful if we close it overnight.”
Police officers monitor the trail and park but currently have no authority to detain suspicious persons or require them to leave. “A lot of people we encounter have an extensive criminal history and, right now, if they don’t want to talk to us, they don’t have to,” Caristo said.
Randolph advised that an overnight closure ordinance would be legal as long as access to the Lake Trail is maintained for property owners who live adjacent to it.
Councilwoman Bobbie Lindsay said she uses the trail five days a week but won’t walk on it alone at night because she feels vulnerable.
“I’m totally supportive of this and everyone I’ve talked to is supportive of it,” Lindsay said. “People who live on the trail can still get out. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what we have to do, with the population explosion across the bridges.”
Moore and the council members all offered their support of the overnight closures, though most of them felt Caristo’s suggestion of closing the park and trail at 10 p.m. might be too early.
Some residents who don’t live along the trail enjoy walking their dogs on it or in the park later than 10 p.m., Councilman Ted Cooney said. He suggested waiting until 11 p.m.
“It’s finding the right balance,” Cooney said.