FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth has blocked off a section of Gateway Park after public lewd behavior became too much of a problem there.
The heavily wooded area accessible by driving down Valle Circle has a picnic shelter and provides access to bike and walking trails. A padlocked gate though blocks off access to the area.
A new sign posted by the gate says residents can call the city to rent the shelter on the other side if they need to.
The decision to restrict access was made in the last few months according to department director Richard Zvala.
“It’s really not just a Fort Worth issue,” he said. “It’s an urban issue across this country. Wherever you have large urban areas with remote public spaces or parks, there tends to be unwanted behavior that might occur when people are a little bit out of sight.”
The behavior along Valle Circle just became all too common, Zvala said. Despite increased police patrols, complaints from residents who happened upon the sexual activity kept coming in.
“You would just see groups of people showing up at the same time and going off into the woods,” said Larry Colvin.
As president of the Fort Worth Mountain Bike Association, Colvin and other riders are on the parks bike trails frequently.
“If you haven’t seen it you’ve definitely heard about it from other member, that’s for sure,” he said.
The area is still accessible by foot and via the trails. Zvala said the city will use the downtime to do maintenance work on the shelter.
There is an ongoing discussion with police, and community groups on how to address the problem to enable reopening the road. He said the move shouldn’t be permanent.
Colvin said the activity had dropped noticeable since the gate closed. He said his group is trying to make the park a destination for people, something he hopes will drive the activity out for good.
“It’s all about exposure, no pun intended,” he said. “Getting people on the trail, is what drives those folks off.”
Police were in the park Thursday and the city said community patrols are able to access the area by bike to make sure those who still use the area are safe.