With summer here, a lot of families will be spending their evenings at the local baseball and softball parks. However, Tyler Fastpitch Softball Commissioner Anthony Springer says the league's fields at Fun Forest Park just aren't safe.
"The security is definitely my number one issue," Springer said. "I find myself just policing, walking around constantly, trying to keep the kids safe."
With the fields next to the pool and the unsupervised basketball courts, Springer says the girls games are often interrupted.
"A lot of times you'll get big streetball games," Springer said, "that might have 30-40 people in it, and you're getting every racial slur and profanity you can imagine."
"We get kids that are harassed walking from one field to another field, people lurking around that don't belong over here. You've got sexual predator alerts in the bathroom, and people that are unstable that come around the park."
Springer said they have incidents weekly, and says two weeks ago a fight by the pool turned into a police chase through their parking lot.
"They bleeped the siren, and everybody piles into the cars and they're doing 45-50 miles an hour racing out of the park trying to get away from the police, and they're chasing them through the park."
"There's some negative crowds that come out here," said umpire and mother Amber Danner-Kirk, "and there was over fifteen cars that came out at one time down this street to get out of here."
"It's here every day, it's life for these girls," Danner-Kirk continued. "An environment like that is not very safe, and not somewhere where we want our children to be playing."
The Fastpitch organization currently has about 300 girls, a stagnant number Springer attributes to their playing conditions.
"I hear from a lot of parents that the kid wants to play fastpitch softball and be a part of this," Springer said, "but they don‘t want to expose their kid to the language or to the surroundings that we're currently dealing with."
"Tyler has over a hundred thousand plus in population," Danner-Kirk said. "The amount of girls that come out and play compared to other cities is way, way lower."
"I think it has a lot do with the environment, if we could create a safe environment for the kids to play, I think the participation would be much higher."
Springer is pushing to leave Fun Forest, and to refurbish fields already in the Tyler system to alleviate the security problems, and he's trying to get the word out.
"I need somebody to go to bat for these girls," he said, "and try and help get us out of this situation."
Spring said security for the kids is their main concern, but they also have problems at Fun Forest Park with field conditions, handicap access, and break-ins at the concession stand.
"The security concerns out at Fun Forest," Tyler Parks and Recreation Manager John Webb said, "honestly, I don't know if there's any more problems out there at Fun Forest than at any other park. I haven't seen any reports saying we have more problems, more police reports there."
"Police have been asked if they could, if possible, to they could kind of beef up patrols in that area," Webb said. "They're looking at that direction, but the biggest thing on security is, we've got lots of moms, lots of dads, and they all have cell phones. If there's a problem on this park, or any park, pick up the cell phone and call 911 immediately."
Reid Kerr can be reached at email@example.com.