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Dozens of protesters gathered along Lake Shore Drive alongside Culver's town park Sunday afternoon to decry what they feel is the unfair removal of the longstanding swimming pier at the public beach there.
Park superintendent Kelly Young acknowledged the pier was removed in its entirety -- save for the section on which the lifeguard chair is mounted -- the previous Tuesday, July 23, and that there are currently no plans in place to reinstall it.
Young said the action came due to an "ongoing battle" with park patrons who don't follow the posted rules concerning the pier. She emphasized she and park staff made attempts to curb the behavior using a variety of methods including "time outs," speaking with the parents of youthful rule-breakers, and even shutting down the pier completely for one evening. Young added she contacted Culver park board president Tammy Shaffer, who witnessed the problems on several occasions. Young consulted Shaffer to seek her approval prior to removing the pier.
Contrary to some rumors regarding removal of the pier, Young said the decision was "not related whatsoever" to the July 14 drowning incident at the swimming beach.
For her part, board president Shaffer called the decision, "Strictly a public safety measure until a plan is developed and properly executed.
"I would rather be safe than sorry when it comes to injury or loss of life," she added. "The swim pier may go back in with proper planning at the appropriate time. A life or quality of life...I would be unable to replace due to an injury or death."
Park board member Patty Stallings, who was involved in Sunday's protest at the park (and who elaborated on her position in a letter to the editor in this week's edition of The Culver Citizen), specifically questioned whether the superintendent and board president alone had proper authority to make a decision as impactful to the community as removing the pier.
"This was a ridiculous decision to (make)," she continued. "Kids have been running, pushing and swimming under that pier for as long as there was a beach, and the superintendent and staff have always managed the behavior of the kids. We are punishing all the children for the action of a few. If Kelly Young can't control such behavior, then let's get someone who can. Stop blaming the children for what is a lack of control by the park superintendent."
Culver resident John Helphrey, also a member of the protesting group, expressed similar feelings, noting playground equipment in the park is not removed when youngsters are injured on it or abuse it and questioning why the pier wouldn't be viewed the same way.
"If the park superintendent is giving up the responsibility (of oversight of behavior on the pier), she should have more lifeguards and training. She's taken away something the kids should have," he said.
He also called the matter "another straw on the camel's back," presumably a reference to a string of controversies surrounding the park over the past few years.
"(Young is) not being held accountable."