By Nancy Allen
West Bank Park in Celina has been temporarily closed to reduce state park maintenance costs and to curtail criminal activity involving sexual behavior at the park, a state park official said.
Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Craig Morton said the park, which was closed just before Christmas by putting up a rope and sign barring motorists from entering, will reopen in late March.
Morton also said he expects the closing of the park during winters months to become an annual thing.
"Primarily, it's to reduce maintenance costs like snowplowing time and restroom cleaning time ... we feel people have the north part of the West Bank to use," Morton said. "There are times when the south end was a trouble spot."
Morton said his office has received a few calls during the last couple of years of residents reporting sexual activity by persons at the park, while the Mercer County Sheriff's Office has received "a lot more" calls. The park has a circle drive that loops back around to a small parking lot, has two shelter houses, cooking grills, picnic tables and a fishing pier along the lake's shore. Many families like to take their children back to the park and feed the geese and ducks.
Morton noted the park's reopening should happen shortly before the new walking and bicycling trail is completed along the lake's shoreline near the park. The state is building the 7,000-foot-long non-motorized trail using a grant and matching funds.
"Hopefully it will be a good place to walk and see the eagles and picnic," he said of the new trail.
Morton said park officers will be patrolling the West Bank Park on foot and bicycle on a regular basis once it reopens.
Morton said he received a few phone calls from citizens disagreeing with the closing, but that they understood after Morton explained the reasons.
"There are some parks that totally close down their campgrounds for the winter and lock the gates, and others close remote areas they feel there is not enough demand for to justify the maintenance costs," he said.