Enforcement remains a concern for several Vigo County Park Board members, as the board on Monday continued its discussion of whether or not people listed on the state’s sex offender registry should be banned from visiting county parks.

County Attorney Michael Wright told the board that the Indiana Supreme Court overturned an ordinance in Jeffersonville, found unconstitutional as it violated an individual’s rights who had been removed from the sex offender list. Some offensesrequire a person to be on the list  only for 10 years, while other offenses place a person on the list for a lifetime.

The state supreme court upheld an ordinance adopted in Plainfield as it determined that visiting a park system is not a fundamental right protected under the state constitution or the U.S. constitution. That ordinance has a clause allowing people removed from the list to visit parks.

“Based on that, you can safely say if you enact an ordinance that has a certain level of protection in it, for cases as applied that are unconstitutional, then you are probably in a pretty defensible position from a litigation perspective,” Wright said.

However, Wright told the board that outside of Indiana, other states have not enacted such restrictive ordinances, instead considering “parks by nature are better when open.”

“I think that other jurisdictions outside the state of Indiana are probably looking at it from a common sense perspective and saying, ‘We are not really sure this is how we want to go,’” Wright told the board.

Indiana law does not prohibit those on the sex offender registry from visiting public parks, and Indiana state parks do not have a policy restricting sex offenders from entering parks.

Peggy Harlan, who is president of the board, along with board members Matt Schalburg and Jim Luzar questioned how the parks department could effectively enforce a county ordinance. Luzar said every person entering any of the county parks would have to be checked against sex offender lists and would delay access to the parks. The parks department does not have the manpower for such checks, Parks Superintendent Kara Kish told the board.

Luzar suggested instead of a blanket policy, the board consider focusing just on camping, as the parks department already has an application process.

“It could just become another check mark in the application process,” Luzar said. 

The board took no action and may continue its discussion on the issue next month.

• In other business, the parks board voted to dissolve an advisory council created in 2013 and establish a memorandum of understanding establishing the Friends of the Griffin Bike Park. The memorandum, a legal contract between the parks board and the friends group, would have the parks superintendent annually appointing a chair of that group and would give more financial control to the parks department. 

Luzar sought to include in the memorandum a means for arbitration should disagreements arise between the parks department and the group in the future. The board will review that memorandum next month for a final approval.

• Also, the parks department will collect Christmas trees from Dec 26 to Jan 4. The trees will be used to create fish habitats in Ruble Lake. Trees can be dropped off at Hawthorn Park at the beach parking lot. No lights, ornaments or tinsel can be on the trees. Contact the parks department at 812-462-3392 for more information.

 

Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com

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