Hemming Park Looking To Add New Rules, Better Enforce Them

Oct 19, 2016

Managers of Jacksonville’s Hemming Park are looking to add new rules — like prohibiting personal grooming in the park — while trying to better enforce existing ones.

Friends of Hemming Park representatives met with members of the Jacksonville City Council, park security and police officers at City Hall Wednesday.

Directly across the street at Hemming Park, a man was walking around without a shirt near the kids’ play area. Another guy was barefoot.

Hemming’s interim CEO Bill Prescott said those are the kind of behaviors council members find unacceptable.

“Disruptive, foul language is part of it,” he said. “People are using language or cat calls to women coming through.”

Hemming Park’s management team has been under scrutiny since the park nearly ran out of money in May. Since then, a special city council committee has been reviewing the park’s practices. City funding for the park hinges on council members’ satisfaction with the park operations.

Hemming already has a list of rules posted: No panhandling or camping, for example. And proposed park rules are being introduced, like no skateboarding or feeding the homeless without a city permit.

But officers and security have had a hard time enforcing existing rules.

It’s clear in city code offenders can be banned from the park for a year for crimes like sexual battery or indecent exposure, but it’s not clear whether they can be banned for violating simple park rules, because those violations aren’t listed.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s Zone 1 Assistant Division Chief Jackson Short said it’s even fuzzy if banning people for fighting is allowed.

Council member John Crescimbeni said he wants it to be clear they can be. But first, the city would have to tweak its trespassing policy. City code says offenders must be provided a hard copy of their violation in order to be banned. Short said those violations are stored digitally.  

With Council’s approval, JSO could instead give offenders a generic ban notice with required information about steps to appeal the ban along with the violation number.

But Jacksonville officers aren’t stationed in Hemming Park, although officer bicycle squads are frequently passing through the area. Privately hired security is in the park on weekdays, but they aren’t allowed to ban people. Council members talked about possibly deputizing some of the security officers since most of them have been officers before.

Still, officers say banning offenders is only a temporary solution, and people could just stand around the perimeter of the park or move to another park. Council members talked about extending the park’s boundaries.

The group will meet again in early November to continue discussing park rule enforcement.

Proposed New Rules

  • Hemming Park is open from dawn to dusk and for special events.
  • Shirt and shoes must be worn at all times.
  • You must have a permit from City of Jacksonville to feed homeless in the park.
  • No bike riding in the park unless you’re an authorized JSO officer.
  • No skateboarding in the park.
  • No personal grooming in the park.
  • No adults allowed in the Kids Zone unless accompanied by a child.
  • No alcohol in the park unless served by FOHP or an authorized vendor.
  • No persons are allowed in the fountains unless for authorized maintenance.
  • No persons are allowed on the stages unless authorized by FOHP staff.
  • No amplified sound allowed in the park without a permit from FOHP .
  • Power outlets are only to be used by FOHP staff and authorized vendors.
  • Pets must be kept on a leash and picked up after at all times.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.