As a parent who visits the playground at Brook Creek Park regularly with her child, Jamie Benvenutti felt surprised last week to learn that BB and compressed air guns were permitted in city parks near areas where children and families congregate.
“Shouldn’t there be a sign posted at each public park so parents can decide if they feel safe enough to bring their children to a place where it’s OK to shoot BB guns? I know I certainly don’t feel OK taking my child to a park where shooting guns is allowed,” Benvenutti said in an email late last week.
Benvenutti’s concerns cropped up after reading a neighborhood post on a social media platform about squirrel hunting with BB guns at Brook Creek Park, 1200 Brook St.
Besides an exception for animal control officers, city code states hunting and trapping are prohibited not only within parks but on all city-owned property and open spaces.
Derek Rogers, director of parks and recreation development, said in an email that Benvenutti’s concerns marked the first time he could recall hearing of a BB gun’s use in a city park.
“Parks & Recreation takes the safety of park users and their loved ones very seriously,” Rogers said in an email. “We work proactively to address all safety concerns and issues. We understand the concern and we took swift action to address it by implementing this new park rule.”
The rule took effect Thursday, Rogers said. It bars pneumatic — or compressed air — devices like the popular toy replica airsoft guns, as well as BB and paintball guns.
The new rule states, “Pneumatic or other devices that can propel a projectile are not allowed in our city parks and open spaces. These devices include airsoft and paintballs, which would not be permitted in our parks without prior written permission by the parks and recreation director.”
Nerf-loving fans of the traditional sort need not worry. The most common Nerf guns are powered by a spring-powered plunger; however, the rule bars any Nerf gun that uses compressed air to shoot.
The Times asked the Lawrence Police Department to provide details about any hunting-related calls for Brook Creek Park during September. Lt. David Ernst, a department spokesperson, said officers were dispatched shortly after 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22 to the park for a suspicious activity with weapons call.
Ernst said officers located two juveniles in the woods northeast of the playground who were in possession of an airsoft gun and a BB gun. “Officers spoke with the juveniles about the safety concerns associated with shooting the guns in a public area. Officers asked the juveniles to take the guns home and the juveniles agreed to do so.”
It took less than a week for the city of Lawrence to respond to Benvenutti’s concerns and make the change. She said she hopes the city publicizes the specifics of the new rule soon. “I really appreciate the quick response from Director Rogers at Parks and Rec and am glad to hear they are taking these concerns seriously.”
The city of Lawrence provides an on-call phone number for emergencies that impact public safety or property and is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 785-832-7923.