This was Rutland's Depot Park in July -- tall bushes and ample seating. This is Depot Park now -- the bushes and trees have been trimmed so police driving by can see what's going on, and hey -- what happened to all those benches?
"We needed to make a statement. We needed to get their attention and frankly we did. When the benches were being taken out Friday, there were groups of individuals walking by swearing at the park workers -- the police had to be called," said Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras
Mayor Louras says the removal comes after residents at a community meeting said the behavior of teens in the park makes them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.
"It's pretty scuzzy I'd say. Just a lot of -- I just find a lot of dudes who are just like drunk, hanging out," said local resident Hunter Nelson.
"A lot of druggies would just come out here and smoke and stuff," said local resident Lindsay Cassell.
Mayor Louras said he wants the teens to know they are welcome at the public park, but bad behavior is not. "We figured we would do this -- try to change the dynamic, change the environment here in the park. And it's temporary. They will be coming back." he said.
But not everyone is happy about it. Nineteen year-old Anylia Slater called Depot Park her second home. "This is the only place where we can actually hang out and be ourselves," she said. "I know there has been a few incidents where kids have been doing stupid drugs and stuff, but if you really look at it, the more you take away the more you're going to get back biting you in the butt."
Slayter said taking away the benches will only cause the teens to act out even more.
But other teens, like Shawn Shorey, are welcoming the change. "I'd rather this thing go away. It's just to help our Rutland right now with all that stuff going on. This will help it a lot better," he said.
The mayor hopes all those who want to use the park but haven't will now start making a conscious effort to come here. He says all they need is 10 minutes a day to eat their lunch or read a book and he believes, that will make a difference. "I plan to be down here myself. I don't know, I may set up a coffee table with a chair and do some work out here and talk to whomever comes by. I think that would be a good start," Mayor Louras said.
Louras hopes that could be the first step to make the park a place where all who walk by feel welcome.
This isn't Louras' first attempt to curb bad behavior. In July he issued the city's first ever lifetime ban from the parks to an 18-year-old woman after her disruptive behavior turned violent and she assaulted a police officer and resisted arrest.
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