The city reversed course Tuesday and lifted a ban on pickup basketball games at Delano Park during Decatur High softball games and practices.
Mayor Tab Bowling ordered the two signs banning the basketball games removed from the outdoor court in Delano Park. The asphalt court is next to the high school’s softball field on Prospect Drive Southeast, across from Decatur Middle School.
Bowling said he was surprised to find the signs at the park and he had them removed “because we want our public parks to be open to the public.”
Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake instituted the ban in March at the request of Deputy Superintendent Dwight Satterfield. Lake told the council he was “just trying to work with the schools.”
School officials said they were having problems with cursing from the basketball players while the Lady Raiders were hosting softball games or holding practice, Lake said.
Satterfield could not be reached Tuesday.
Councilman Carlton McMasters said he had heard reports of marijuana use at the basketball court, but Police Chief Nate Allen said his department has received no such reports.
“I would encourage anyone who sees someone breaking the law to call us,” Allen said.
At recent softball games, numerous cars have parked on the basketball courts and grass near the softball field. That has raised concerns from the Delano Park Conservancy.
Councilman Billy Jackson has been the most vocal against the ban on pickup ball during softball activities, and he got support Monday night from fellow council members. He urged the mayor, who said he wasn’t aware there was a problem, to take care of the issue. Alternatively, Jackson said, the council should approve a resolution ending the ban.
“You’re taking the basketball courts from the kids and even some adults,” Jackson said. “It looks like you’re allowing one situation to have favoritism over another.”
Jackson said the basketball courts are in a location convenient to low-income kids and it gives them an outlet while the city’s recreation centers are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jackson said the school system could hire off-duty police officers to provide security at the softball games just like it does for football and basketball games.
Councilman Kyle Pike, who represents District 2 where the park is located, said he agreed with Jackson.
“It’s the best option for those kids who live close by,” Pike said. “This is a city park and everyone should be able to enjoy it.”
Council President Jacob Ladner said Delano “is a public park, so it needs to be open to the public. We need the park’s basketball court open.”
Lake and Bowling said they have a meeting with school officials scheduled for Thursday to discuss the Delano Park issue.