After more than $50,000 of vandalism to Lodi parks and Hutchins Street Square in 2012, the city is planning to hire a part-time police officer to patrol some of Lodi's most valuable assets.
The officer's main focus will be on enforcing rules and preventing vandalism at Lodi Lake Park, said Jeff Hood, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.
"It's not only vandalism but people who are damaging the park, and they may not be completely aware of it," Hood said. "The goal is not to punish, although at times that might need to happen. We want to educate park visitors about our rules."
At the lake, the city has had problems with people driving and parking on the grass, which damages the irrigation system. Kayakers and boaters have been using the river bank to remove their boats instead of the Lodi Lake boat launch, which causes increased erosion, Hood said.
Dogs in the Lodi Lake Nature Area are another problem. Though dogs aren't allowed in the nature area, some people ignore that rule.
The dogs can carry canine parvovirus, which harms the foxes that live in the nature area. They can also bring in insects that carry disease. One dog even bit a woman while it was walking on a leash inside the area, according to Hood.
Enforcing those rules will help the city maintain Lodi Lake resources for longer, Hood said.
"It's not just the obvious crimes that we need to address, but also issues that lead to higher park maintenance costs, especially at Lodi Lake," Hood said.
The position will be shared between the Lodi Parks and Recreation department and Public Works. The officer will also be in charge of keeping frequent tabs on the new Lodi Surface Water Treatment Plant, which is located on the west side of the lake.
"That's a major public investment that needs to be protected," he said.
The officer will occasionally visit other Lodi parks, such as Kofu Park Skate Park, where there have been problems with drug and alcohol use in the past.
Hood estimates the officer will work about 1,300 hours a year and cost the city $40,000. He is open to multiple retirees filling the position and sharing hours.
The officer will report to the police department but will focus solely on parks and Public Works concerns.
"The priorities for the position will be different in many respects than a patrol officer," Hood said.
There has not been a full-time park ranger or police officer dedicated to the parks since the early 1990s.
The Lodi Parks and Recreation Commission will hear an update on the position at its meeting at 6 p.m. today at Hutchins Street Square, 125 S. Hutchins St.
Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at email@example.com.