Terre Haute, Ind. (WTHI) - The superintendent for Vigo County's Parks and Recreation Department got what she's asking for Monday evening: increased security at the county's Hawthorn Park, and a blessing from board members to crack down on visitors and campers who do not respect and abide by park policies.
This heightened concern comes on the heels of a notable increase in reports of vandalism at Hawthorn Park specifically, said Kara Kish, parks superintendent.
Hawthorn Park on Old Maple Avenue is the site where a population of homeless campers has become the norm. But Kish admitted she does not have firm numbers yet regarding just how many vandalism complaints are coming in this summer.
"The only thing that we are trying to react to now is that we've noticed the increase over the last couple months. We will keep an eye on, and try to look back on, the increased reports that we do have and make some rhyme or reason to it. So at this point, we haven't done the research we just know that there is an issue. And that's why we're trying to respond with increased security," Kish told News 10 at the conclusion of Monday night's meeting.
Homeless advocate Muriel Ryan cautioned park board members to reserve judgment and not be too quick to pin all bad happenings within Hawthorn Park on the homeless population.
"And one thing I would ask you to do is to take a look at the reports before drawing any conclusions as to whether or not we're looking at short-term or long-term. Have these people been here for 30-days?? Have they been here for 3-days," Ryan expressed to the panel.
A couple parks board members vehemently denied making generalizations, or any broad judgments, that linked all the recent incidents to the homeless campers at Hawthorn.
News 10 spoke with one of those park tenants: Jerry Heyman, who says he's homeless by choice.
"It's just a choice we made. It's a choice I made five years ago to camp out," Heyman said.
Heyman had no plans to attend Monday night's meeting. He said he would watch News 10's report on his small, portable television set that travels with him -- providing, of course, he could get a good signal that deep into the woods.
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