A new playground. A walking trail. A volleyball court. Better lighting. Taller privacy fencing. Plenty of benches.

Those are some things neighbors are requesting that the city install in a revitalized Gassaway Park.

About 30 people attended a community meeting at the park hosted by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Police Department.

The Parks and Recreation Department is looking to repurpose the park to make it more useful for families and less likely to attract suspicious activity.

Gassaway Park abuts several residential properties, and neighbors say it’s common for young people to drive their cars into the park illegally, trespass on the residential properties, use drugs, or have sex in the park.

Parks Director Russ Jackson said the department hears about visibility concerns from neighbors because of the park’s split-level setup, with most of the amenities on the lower level.

Jackson said parents often don’t want to send their kids into the park alone because they can’t see from the upper level to the lower level. He also said previous attempts to keep people from driving into the park have resulted in vandalism.

Jackson said the city now wants to move the amenities, such as the playground, to the top level and then plant a dense patch of trees in the lower level to make it impossible to drive down there.

He said it could take the next several years to revitalize the park because of a lack of funding, but the city will make changes in phases that cost $100,000 to $150,000 each, apply for grants and seek out different types of philanthropy.

“We want this, and I’m not promising the moon because it’s a financial thing,” Jackson said. He told attendees that they could pay $1,000 to donate benches to the park in a loved one’s memory.

Leanne Robinette, the parks manager, said the park will find out in a matter of days whether it gets $20,000 from a Lowe’s Community Grant to take the first steps in revitalization.

Robinette said the city’s Keep Tyler Beautiful initiative applied for the grant. She said she’s optimistic because the initiative received a similar grant two years ago.

Linda Berry, 67, who lives on Shaffer Lane, said she’d like to see the park have amenities that kids can enjoy because she comes to the park to entertain children she’s baby-sitting.

Currently, she said people come into the park after 2 o’clock in the morning in trucks and the lights shine right into a big picture window in her home.

“Last week, I was in my kitchen, and they came up and drove right up next to my fence,” Berry said.

Dorinda Williams, 59, who also lives on Shaffer Lane, said she’d like to see upgrades to the restrooms, new facilities that kids would enjoy, and have lighting installed for better visibility.

“It’s pretty dark down there at night, and you never know what’s going on, so if it’s up here and lighted, it might help,” said Max Nash, 66, another neighbor of Gassaway Park.

Simon Pineda, 36, said he’d like to see more people come to the park. An improvement to the basketball court or a new soccer field would help, he said.

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield

Government Reporter

Erin came to Tyler from Vermont, where she worked for VTDigger.org and previously the Rutland Herald. She received her B.A. in Economics and Spanish from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she also attended journalism school.

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