WALLA WALLA — A downtown park that had some merchants complaining it was a haven for illicit activity has been reconfigured to help authorities police the area.
City police and merchants represented by the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation had asked that Heritage Park be opened up visually, officials said.
“The park had a growing reputation as stoner park, with drug deals going on in broad daylight and convenient hiding places for illicit activity. So our hope was to take away from those opportunities to make the park a more inviting place for the general public and for families,” Jennifer Northam of the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation said.
In recent weeks, city crews removed a number of shrubs that blocked the view from Main Street to the back of Heritage Park, where numerous youths congregate on some evenings.
A wheelchair access ramp was also removed because it provided a hiding area where youths could skulk. The ramp was not needed because wheelchair access is available in other entrances.
Along with the changes, classical music was also added to the park.
Other cities, including Portland and Minneapolis, have experimented with piping in classical music to deter criminal activity by making the areas unpopular with transient or younger populations.
Northam said the goal is not to drive out youths but to make them more visible and the area less conducive to illicit activity.
She added the foundation had a request from three surrounding businesses that classical music be piped into the park.
City officials said they will play the music from 3-11 p.m.
The foundation will pay for the music, which comes to about $4 per month.
A new Windows To The Past exhibit sign also was added to the park.
The sidewalk information kiosk, which partially blocked the view into the park, was removed earlier this year at the request of the foundation, officials said.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.