Buxton police have charged 40 people with trespassing in a riverfront park that had been closed because of large gatherings, illegal drinking and dangerous behavior.

Town officials closed Pleasant Point Park on Friday after several weeks of increased disregard for park rules and dangerous behavior that included underage drinking and throwing objects at boaters on the Saco River, they said. The gate to the park was locked, “closed” signs were posted and a chain was hung across the parking area, but dozens of people entered the park anyway on Saturday and Sunday, police Chief Troy Cline said.

“In one word: horrible,” Cline said of how the weekend went at the closed park. “It was posted Friday and it was posted very conspicuously. There was no doubt the park was closed.”

Buxton police cited 18 people Saturday for criminal trespass, a misdemeanor. Another 22 people were cited for criminal trespass on Sunday.

Police also cited four girls for possession of liquor by a minor and three adult men for drinking in public. Two people were arrested and charged with refusal to submit to arrest or detention after they ran from officers trying to cite them for trespassing.

Cline said all of the people who were arrested or summonsed were from outside Buxton and came from as far away as New York and Indiana. Written warnings were given to several people who entered the park from the river and appeared to be unaware it was closed, Cline said.

“We did not charge anyone that resides in the town of Buxton because there were no violations by anyone from Buxton. It was all people from away,” Cline said.

The riverside park is a popular gathering spot for people who float down the Saco River and with swimmers who jump into the river from rope swings. People often put floats in upriver, near the intersection of Route 4A and Salmon Falls Road, and float to Pleasant Point Park.

Throughout the weekend, people parked on the roads around the park and along the Saco River, prompting police to have more than 10 cars towed because they were obstructing traffic. Cline said residents cheered police and public works crews as they turned people away from the park and put up barricades to stop drivers from parking on the side of the road.

The issues at the park have stretched the police department, which is short-staffed, said Cline, who worked Saturday night to help deal with people trespassing at the park. The department was assisted by the Maine State Police and the Maine Warden Service.

The decision last week to close the park came shortly after a stretch of especially bad behavior, town officials said. After one weekend, park caretakers cleaned up 336 beer cans and bottles, 92 soda cans, 21 liquor bottles, 15 rubber floats and multiple bags of trash.

The park was closed briefly for a similar “cooling off period” in 2017. But “this time it feels like it’s not working at all,” Cline said.

“Voluntary compliance is a wonderful thing and we encourage folks to simply do that,” Cline said. “Once we figure out how we’re going to reopen the park, we’ll be more than happy to do that.”

Chad E. Poitras, chairman of Buxton’s selectmen, plans to open up a segment of Wednesday night’s board meeting – starting at 7 p.m. at Town Hall – to the public. Poitras hopes Buxton residents will weigh in with solutions that will allow the town to reopen Pleasant Point Park as soon as possible.

“We want the public to be able to enjoy it and have fun at the park,” Poitras said Monday evening in a telephone interview. “But what has happened is, we have this angry group of young people who continue to defy the law and who have gone down to the park and trashed the place. We can’t have a mob of angry people take this away from our citizens.”

Poitras does not know what the solution could be. He’d rather not implement a park permit system because of the cost involved with enforcement and staffing. Hiring more police officers or town workers to patrol the park might be challenging, given the town’s shrinking revenue sources and tight budget.

Poitras is hoping that Buxton residents at Wednesday’s meeting will provide “constructive and reasonable” ideas for reopening Pleasant Point Park.

Something has to be done to prevent what happened last weekend from happening again, Poitras said.

He said Buxton residents don’t feel safe going to the park with such unruly crowds.

“I’m very disappointed that some people seem to have no respect for public property,” Poitras said.

Pleasant Point Park was deeded to the town of Buxton in June 1989. It includes about 65 acres along the Saco River and provides canoe and kayak access, and a place for swimming, hiking and picnicking.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: