So, I have set an unofficial goal of visiting all of the Metro parks and reviewing them for Pith. Today, I thought I’d go over to Cedar Hill Park. Cedar Hill Park is a really lovely park. I just want to say that upfront. They have a great playground for kids, a nice pond you can walk around, baseball fields, and a frisbee golf course.
Branches have been trimmed up and it looks to be well-maintained.
So, I just want to be clear that I am not blaming what I am about to tell you on Metro Parks. It doesn’t matter how many employees are tasked with keeping a place neat and clean, if some of the people who use the park are going to use it like all human decency ceases when you get past the park entrance.
I saw litter all over the place. And not just little litter, like you might expect at a park, but a plastic container of motor oil and a half empty twelve-pack of grape pop, among other things. THERE WAS A HUGE PILE OF HUMAN POOP in one of the portapotties right next to the toilet, as if the pooper just wanted to say “fuck you, I could have used the toilet, but I want you to have to look at (and clean up) my filth.”
There were lone men backed into parking spaces in half of the parking lots, tucked back in far corners where they were only semi-noticeable.
And there was a guy in a cream van slowly cruising in and out of every parking lot, up and down the road. The park’s not that big and he went by us at least five times.
I was thinking about the guns in parks issue as I was trying to decide just how freaked out to be by said weirdo in the cream van. The Butcher and I were talking about this afterwards and he said, “maybe he was just checking out the guys in the trucks,” and I agreed, but I said it’s kind of a fucked up catch 22 for a woman–when something weird is going on around you, it’s framed as if you’re a bitch to think that it’s about you, but if you don’t act as if it’s about you, and something happens, it’s your fault for not noticing.
And why should I be run out of a park I’m actually using for park-like purposes by a dude who’s using it to act like a fucking weirdo?
I have never felt unsafe in the Bells Bend Park. In fact, I would have gone there this morning, except I knew it would be a muddy mess. By myself, with others, alone in the park or one of a bunch of people, I have never felt in danger or that I needed to have an immediate plan for how to protect myself.
But the dude in the cream van had me coming up with contingency plans in my head. “Can I cut through the woods here to get out of his site? If he drives by again, I will take a picture of his license plate with my camera and, if he grabs me, I will toss the camera, so that whoever finds it can find me. Could I count on Mrs. Wigglebottom taking him down? Where’s my pepper spray? Shit, let’s just turn around and leave.” Which we did.
It’s like how you learn defensive driving in school, I go to the park defensively. I imagine that many, if not all, women do.
It’s a tough line to walk. The parks all recommend that you take a buddy. And certainly a woman alone is an easier target than even a woman in a pair. But I’m 35. I resent the fuck out of having to have a chaperon to be in a public place safely. I’d rather just take my dog and go to parks where I feel I have a better chance of using the park unnoticed by others.
Back to the guns in parks thing. I honestly think that Coleman’s proposal (which is dead for the moment) shows one of the ways men and women live in vastly different worlds, even in the same space. In Bells Bend, the only reason you would need a gun, I think, is if some animal threatened you. I haven’t seen coyote out there or anything, but they’re all over, and if it’s just you and a pet, having a way to ward a coyote off might be necessary. Like I said, I haven’t seen it, but that seems like a plausible reason to me (not that that’s the reason Coleman was offering).
But I would not be opposed to people, women especially, being allowed to carry in a park like Cedar Hill, especially if they’re not going to have a park police officer in each park at all times.
Usually, when I’m walking Mrs. Wigglebottom, she is enough of a deterrent and weirdos don’t bug us (which, I have to say, is one of the reasons I will always have a “scary” dog). But in some cases, like the guy with the cream van, I don’t blame people for wanting a way to signal that messing with me is going to be more trouble than it’s worth.