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Sandy's Meinig Park has, in many ways, become inhospitable. Residents and the city government should work in partnership together to take back the park.

We relocated in Sandy in 2008 from our home in northeast Oregon, bringing with us our 11-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.

Coming from Pendleton, both my wife and I knew we wanted to retain the rural feel of the community that we were leaving. That's what led us to Sandy in the first place, finding an affordable home in a good neighborhood within walking distance of Meinig Memorial Park and just a short jaunt into the Cascades. It didn't take long to realize Sandy was the destination we were looking for.

Steve Brown, publisherSoon after relocating, we became involved with the Sandy Mountain Festival as volunteers and as board members. And we became entrenched in the community as parents of students enrolled in the local schools. We took ownership and pride in the community by supporting the bond measure that allowed construction of the new Sandy High School.

And in the last nine years we've developed friendships that have catapulted Sandy from the perfect destination to the perfect "staying" place. This is home.

But Sandy has changed just in the short time we've lived here. Local police are telling us that the inevitable growth of our shared community is bringing change — more vandalism and more crime.

Nowhere in town is that change more evident than in this city's crown jewel — Meinig Park.

As parents of young children when we came to town, we were frequent visitors to the Fantasy Forest wooden play structure. I can't tell you how many times I've played hide-and-seek with my son at that structure.

We've enjoyed the towering cedars of the park. And I used the walking paths in my effort to drop a few pounds from my midsection.

I celebrated my 50th birthday with family and friends at one of the wooden shelters below City Hall.

And as a volunteer with the Sandy Mountain Festival I've helped set up and tear down the annual event at least six times since moving to town.

But as a family, we're pretty much done with Meinig Park.

For two years running, while setting up the Mountain Festival, I've watched park visitors openly light up marijuana as easily as if they were opening a Pepsi.

The last time I took my son to the Fantasy Forest play structure, he pointed out the profanity and sexually laced graffiti carved and penned into the wood.

On my walks through the park in the early morning, I've noted the number of people sleeping under the overhang of the Dale Nicholls stage.

And I've experienced the intimidation of the young people who congregate at the large gazebo, making it difficult for others to enjoy the structure.

This last summer my Mountain Festival friends and colleagues gathered for a meal at the Gazebo on the day before the parade. Not 40 feet from our group, and in full sight of my 10-year-old-son, our group was horrified as two teenagers engaged in oral sex. A mom should not need to shield her young son's eyes as she escorts him out of a public park.

Then on Monday of this week, news appeared on a community Facebook page, with a photo of an intentional fire that could have destroyed the Fantasy Forest play structure.

My message here is simple — Sandy needs to take back its jewel of a park. We don't need vigilantes, but we do need a serious and intentional effort that begins with a partnership between the city government and general public, with both agreeing that we have a serious problem that warrants attention.

I've never been a fan of surveillance cameras, but if they'll help monitor park behavior then let's at least consider installing them in strategic locations in the park.

Let's ask that the city police spend more time patrolling the park.

And as citizens of this community, let's stop being passive in our response when we see something that should be reported to police (I'm as guilty as everyone else). And let's ask our city police to quickly respond to our calls, so we can catch these people in the act.

Until some or all of these actions are taken to cleanup Meinig Park, our family won't be back, with the exception of during the Mountain Festival or other planned community event.

This is a call for action. Who else is willing to help?

Steve Brown is editor / publisher of The Gresham Outlook, Sandy Post and Estacada News. He lives in Sandy.

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