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Lynchburg city council member facing criticism for comments about parks

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Aug 16 2013 05:05:26 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 16 2013 07:05:17 PM EDT

Hunsdon "H." Cary regrets his wording, but said he was trying to make a point about park safety.

LYNCHBURG, Va. -

Hunsdon "H." Cary loves spending time in city parks, but he's disappointed by some of the behavior he sees there.

"Young folks playing on those basketball courts are free with profanity.  The 'F' word and all sorts of things," said Cary, an "at-large" member of Lynchburg City Council.  "You don't want your children around that sort of thing."

His frustration led him to make comments at Tuesday's city council work session that some call racially insensitive.

"When my daughter's friends tell me, we'll take our little children to the playground, but we're not staying until after 2:00, because that's when the 'thuggish' people arrive, that's not a good thing," Cary said Tuesday.

He went on to say Riverside Park is being used by two distinct groups.

"Whites in the morning, blacks in the evening, in large part," said Cary.  "That's unfortunate."

"If you represent all people, white, black, or whoever, you don't make a statement like that," said Robert Flood, a volunteer who has been working with city leaders to make places like Miller Park more family friendly.

He said racial groups in the city get along better than people realize.

"Blacks and whites are hanging more together," Flood said.  "They dress alike, listen to the same music, and they're trying to come together as a whole, so when you have someone trying to stir up something like that, it's a shame."

"I certainly didn't mean it in a racially derogatory sense," Cary told WDBJ7 Friday.  "I apologize to anybody, my black friends, that might have been offended by that."

Cary said he was trying to make a point: that safety in certain parks is still an issue.

"It is a problem and it does need to be addressed," Cary said.

He regrets the wording of what he said and hopes it won't deter people, regardless of who they are, from using Lynchburg's public spaces.

"As much as we would like our parks to be a utopia, they're not," said Cary.  "Fortunately, with the park volunteers we have now, we're making progress and that's an excellent thing."

Cary said he's very pleased with the way Lynchburg's parks and recreation department and police have worked to make Miller Park safer since Memorial Day, when a large fight forced a baseball game to end early.

In the future he'd like to see more staffing and possibly cameras in city parks, to cut down on crime and violence.