City leaders hope to continue Olin-Turville turnaround
Park mostly cleaned up, but some stigma remains
Madison city leaders and volunteers have spent a lot of time and resources in recent years in an effort to turn around a troubled city park.
Olin-Turville Park, despite some progress, is still unable to fully shake its stigma of a popular location for recreational sex.
Police are now sharing their new concerns at Olin-Turville Park and their latest plans for a fix.
Music and fun are exactly what Madison police and neighborhood volunteers had in mind when they decided to establish a free weekly concert series for the month of May at the park's Olin Pavilion.
"The concerts are a celebration of the success we've had in changing Olin Park, making it a safer place and bringing families back to the park," said Sgt. Jim Dexheimer with the Madison Police Department.
Sgt. Dexheimer said the crowds that have come out for the concerts and other events at Olin-Turville Park are proof that the city has been successful at driving out the illicit sex problem that had plagued the park up until a few years ago.
Rules were added on traffic and parking, and the woods where much of the sex had been taking place were thinned out.
But police have recently said they've noticed that some of the bad element they thought they had flushed out is back.
"We reduced it about 70 percent initially and we're seeing a little surge coming back," admitted Sgt. Dexheimer.
A few years ago, the city put traffic controls into place to cut back on some of the cruising in Olin-Turville. Now with the nuisance vehicles back, officials say they're going to have to take even more strict measures.
So police are considering restricting vehicle access during down hours near the back of the park.
That happens to be the spot with the best view of downtown Madison, but also the spot where most of the trouble has been occurring.
"It's a great place to be, but we also want to get the message out that certain things don't go on in the park," said Sgt. Dexheimer. "We're gonna stay vigilant and keep on it."
The month’s worth of free music is helping, and there are plans for folk concerts this fall.
Volunteers share the police department's goal of filling up the park with what they consider the right kind of activity.
"Summertime, this place, the pavilion is booked up solid for weddings and picnics and things," said Tom DeChant with Friends of Olin-Turville (FOOT). "But spring and fall, that's when it gets a little quiet here, and we want to bring more activity into the park."
Volunteers extended an invitation to the gay community, who they say were unfairly targeted for the park's problems.
There is one more free concert scheduled for this month, on Wednesday, May 29, at 6 p.m. at the Olin Pavillion.
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