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The city of Corvallis has had enough of violations of amplified sound codes at its Walnut Barn events facility at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Earlier this month, Parks And Recreation Director Karen Emery pulled the plug on new sound permits for Walnut Barn, and the city’s Parks, Natural Areas and Recreation Advisory Board backed up her decision on a 6-1 vote at its meeting Thursday night at the downtown fire station.

The permits that were issued before the ban will be honored, Emery said, but Parks and Recreation staff will be calling the permit-holders to make sure they know that sound violations will not be tolerated.

Also, Parks and Rec is advising those hosting weddings, reunions or other events at Walnut Barn that they are subject to having their events shut down by the Corvallis Police Department. Previously, the Police Department would issue warnings to party hosts.

Earlier, Parks and Rec had tried reducing the hours in which the permits were valid, but Emery said that that change did not significantly alter the situation.

Park neighbors on hand for the meeting applauded Emery’s stance and the board’s decision.

“It can be difficult to control people, but it’s impossible with alcohol and sound,” said Donald Price, one of three individuals who testified. “They don’t go together real well and are not compatible so close to the neighbors. We were hearing some pretty raucous things.”

“It’s a beautiful facility and I like the fact that you can have parties here,” said Richard LaFrance, “but the amplification is the problem. We have video of people dancing on tabletops at frat parties in June. Controls needed to be put on it.”

Emery said that amplified sound still will be allowed at facilities such as Avery Park and Willamette Park, while also noting that those parks are larger than MLK and have better buffers protecting the nearby neighborhoods.

Emery’s decision was an operational one that did not require board or City Council approval, but the parks board felt that it wanted to be on the record in support of Emery’s decision.

The parks board also received an update from planner Jackie Rochefort on the project to improve Central Park. The city will be replacing the playground, adding a rubberized tile surface and installing a fence around the playground to provide better separation between the playground area and the rest of the park.

In addition Parks and Rec will be remodeling the gazebo at the west end of the park. The key change will be the removal of the permanent roof. The problem for parks officials is that individuals have been using the gazebo for illegal camping. A temporary roof likely will be available for weddings or community concerts.

Challenges of illegal behavior in the park were key factors in how the city chose to rework the facility. The city employed crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) principles.

Key pieces of the principles that were applied at Central Park were to limit the brush to a maximum of 2 feet high and trim tree canopies so that they are at least six feet off the ground. The goal was to open up sight lines and limit the opportunities for criminals to commit crimes where they can’t be seen.

Criminal behaviors that the approach are designed to prevent include smoking, drug use, illegal alcohol consumption, public urinating and littering. Corvallis Police Officer Trevor Anderson, the first Police Department staffer to receive CPTED certification, worked with Parks and Rec throughout the Central Park planning process.

Included were a pair of community meetings, one in April and one in July at which Rochefort emphasized that the city wanted to structure the new playground in a way that made it as inclusive as possible for participants.

The project will cost approximately $575,000, split equally between a state grant and system development charges, the costs developers pay for required infrastructure such as parks, sidewalks and sewers.

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Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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