Alderman calls city park ‘war zone,’ threatens another shutdown

ST. LOUIS - A St. Louis City alderman is threatening to shut down a city park, again.

Alderman John Collins-Muhammed of Ward 21 said that O’Fallon Park “looks like a war zone."

"Over the course of the weekend, our park was completely trashed,” said Collins-Muhammed. “The same thing keeps happening again and again.”

The park, one of St. Louis’ oldest, gives Silk, who is a resident of north city, the chance to get away from life’s daily stresses.

“I grew up in this area since I was a kid,” Silk said.

But he added that it’s hard to ignore the empty beer bottles, used plastic cups, broken glass, cigarette butts, and all kinds of trash lining the park and its tiny lake.

“I don’t think they put enough money in the park,” Silk said. "They spend it somewhere else, but if they did put it here then I think people would treat the park better.”

Collins-Muhammed said he’s frustrated that it’s not just the trash that’s giving the park a bad rap but also the rampant crime.

“It’s a small group of people that’s abusing our park and they don’t really care,” Collins-Muhammed said. "They just come here hang out and do whatever they want to do without any regards to anyone else.”

He isn’t the first the alderman to take this approach. With the help of city police, they closed off all entrances to the park for about 24 hours back at the beginning of summer.

“It was supposed to be a wakeup call or was supposed to wake people up and say, ‘Hey, it’s part of our community, but we have to take care of it,'” Collins-Muhammed said, defending the controversial move.

According to the city charter, there is no law that gives an alderman such an authority. Only police or the park commissioner can shut down a park in the interest of public safety.

Meanwhile, Silk said he applauds the alderman’s efforts, but shutting down the park once again won’t solve the problem.

“If you shut the park down then you got a lot of kids that’s on the streets, so where are they going to go?” he said.

In a statement, the city said:

“We are committed to working with aldermen to maintain our parks and keeping them clean and safe for all who visit them.”

 Collins-Muhammed said he has been talking with the park commissioner to come up with solutions, but if they don’t reach some kind of an agreement, then he will move on with shutting down the park by the end of the week.