Riverside Park closes for month over safety concerns, no impact to Boatnik

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Frustration, spilling out at Wednesday night’s city council meeting in Grants Pass over concerns about the park that runs through the heart of the city.

“We are going to fix this problem whether you like it or not,” a resident said.

“I’m scared to bring my own children there,” another resident said.

“This needs to stop, there needs to be a plan.”

City Manager Aaron Cubic said the city will be shutting down Riverside Park for a month.

Starting May 24, the public will be barred from using the park.

But its important to point out, this will not impact Boatnik.

“We’re going to do some environmental hazard cleanup and we will close it to all patrons,” Cubic said. “This will provide an opportunity for us to spruce up the parks.”

This comes after a man was shot and killed at the park Sunday night.

Police said the victim and suspect were sleeping overnight there.

The city also cites increased incidents posing a risk to public health and safety.

“We’ve has our hands full, as you can imagine, over the years, over the weeks, over the months and we’ve been doing everything we absolutely can do to keep Grants Pass safe,” Grants Pass police chief Warren Hensman said.

The city said homeless issues have plagued riverside park for years now, all leading to this.

“The police chief feels that this is a opportunity to disrupt the situation that’s happening there and try to get a fresh start,” Grants Pass Mayor Sara Bristol said.

After dozens of residents spoke on Wednesday night, Bristol said the city is doing everything it can to address the problem.

A 2022 court ruling said the city cannot remove those sleeping in public parks.

Because it doesn’t have a full time homeless shelter, doing so would violate their 8th Amendment rights.

The city is appealing that decision.

The park is scheduled to re-open June 22.

Bristol said the city council will soon come up with ideas how to  make it safer by using an emergency clause.

“Perhaps creating some zones around the playgrounds and other facilities that would make the parks safer for families and this will give us a break of about a month,” she said.

Boatnik kicks off next weekend at the park.

Again, the city said that will not be affected by this closure.

Instead the park will just continue to be closed, once Boatnik ends.

© 2023 KOBI-TV NBC5. All rights reserved unless otherwise stated.

NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
Skip to content