BOULDER CREEK -- Starting next month, anyone caught smoking, drinking, camping, blasting music or engaging in any other illegal activities at Boulder Creek parks won't just get a little slap on the wrist. They'll be fined -- heavily fined.
The fees range from $160 for infractions, such as possessing an open container of alcohol, to $484 for misdemeanors, such as consuming alcohol. And no matter how the offense is classified, a third violation within one year will cost nearly $900.
The fees "give law enforcement another tool to keep order in public spaces," said Tess Fitzgerald, who sits on the board of directors for the Boulder Creek Recreation and Park District.
The fees are related to an ordinance the Board adopted two years ago, listing about 20 prohibited activities at Junction, Garrahan and Barbara Day parks, more commonly known as Dam Park. In addition to smoking, drinking and camping, the list includes hunting, fishing or harming animals, bringing dogs and cats, lighting fires and damaging district-owned property.
The crackdown was prompted by several violent incidents leading up to the December 2010 adoption of the ordinance, Fitzgerald said. Last March, for instance, a district staff member was assaulted by two unknown assailants at Junction Park. Soon after, district staff purchased and installed security cameras so they can monitor and report dangerous situations or suspicious behavior to law enforcement officials.
Before the ordinance was adopted, "law enforcement would have to take some other code (violation) and try to apply it to our district," Fitzgerald said.
Signs were later posted at the parks that listed which activities are illegal, but not the associated fees. That's because they first had to be listed on the Santa Cruz County Superior Court's bail, or fee, schedule, and it took two years for that to happen.
"Until you get that into the local bail schedule, law enforcement doesn't have anything to cite with," Fitzgerald said, adding the park signs will be revised to reflect the fees.
For each violation, the district receives just $20. But with various state and county fees and assessments tacked on, that's multiplied by a factor of eight -- so someone caught smoking, for example, will really wish he or she hadn't.
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