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Lynchburg initiative promotes park safety, following violent incident

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jul 19 2013 04:50:40 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 19 2013 08:42:03 PM EDT

WDBJ7's Tim Saunders shows how extra police protection, and some help from the community, are improving the park's image.

LYNCHBURG, Va. -

The ball fields and playgrounds of Miller Park hold special memories for people like Robert Flood.

"Miller Park was my second home," said Flood, a Lynchburg resident and student affairs director for the Virginia University of Lynchburg. "I used to go out there every day."

The park is where Flood learned to shoot hoops and made friends he's carried throughout life.

"This is a sanctuary for young people," Flood said. "They have nowhere else to go."

Recently, the park has gained an unwanted reputation. A violent fight on Memorial Day has led some to believe the area is dangerous.

"If one person is doing something, you can't put it on everybody else," said Flood, who is one of several community members working with Lynchburg Parks and Recreaction to help restore Miller Park's image.

"So many people were upset that our parks and groups of people were branded a certain way," said Kay Frazier, director of Lynchburg Parks and Recreation.

Together the two sides are developing a campaign called "Share the Parks."

Monthly events will be held to encourage kids and families to spend time in places like Miller Park. More city staff and police officers are paroling, to keep the areas safe on a daily basis.

"Our parks and our trails are some of the greatest assets the city of Lynchburg has," Frazier said. "We want them to be places that people can enjoy, be proud of, and be a part of."

The focus of the campaign is Miller Park, but city leaders want to eventually expand to promote all of Lynchburg's public recreation areas.

Programs will be based on feedback from people who use the parks.

"Whatever you can bring to the table can help us make this even bigger," said Flood.

The idea is to give families a safe space that everyone can use, at all times of the year, keeping Miller Park a sanctuary for future generations.

The first "Share the Parks" event is next weekend. "Music at Miller" will be feature live music, games, and free food. It's next Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Miller Park.