Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
REDWOOD PARK – With the first sunny 4/20 in five years, the City of Arcata was prepared Sunday, April 20 for any attempts to resurrect what used to be a massively attended celebration in Redwood Park.
But where the lolling, THC-infused masses once chugged herb, Easter Sunday instead saw children blowing bubbles.
With buzzkilling barriers blocking vehicles from entering the park and a diminished but still highly visible squad of cops – including K-9 Officer Zari – lingering about, some arriving cannabis fans just kept on walking to less mellow-harshing climes. For a few, that was the Plaza.
Only four citations were issued in Redwood Park the whole day: two for smoking near the playground, one for an off-leash dog and another for possession of marijuana.
The Plaza saw more enforcement activity. Police Chief Tom Chapman said a “handful” of citations were issued there, for cigarette smoking, dogs and a false ID.
Chapman was gratified that even with sunny weather, the ruinous 4/20 pot party tradition appeared to have been broken in favor of family fun in the park.
“We’ve been successful in transforming 4/20 from what we saw four or five years ago,” he said. “We’ve turned the park back into a family friendly place.”
In years past, the 4/20 event attracted thousands to the park, most of whom were content to get baked, bake in the sun, nosh, enjoy music and generally socialize.
But collateral damage from the unsanctioned, unpermitted event always left the City with a huge trash cleanup job the next day, plus environmental damage to the park. More serious was the crime, petty and otherwise, that came along with the crowds. Fights, thefts, runaway minors, shoplifting, trespassing and other problems were chronic.
Beginning in 2010, at the direction of the City, Arcata Police began blocking vehicles from entering Redwood Park and disabusing those approaching of the idea that any event was taking place. They also began enforcing the Arcata Municipal Code, which prohibits smoking of any kind in city parks.
Each year the stoner hordes diminished, though it’s been an open question as to whether that was because of the saturation by police or by raindrops.
For the 2014 non-event, APD again blocked the Bayview Street entrance to vehicles. A partly malfunctioning digital sign warned those approaching that there is “NO 42( EVENT I PARK,” “ALL MARIJU LAW ARE STRICT ENFORC.”
As APD officers took their morning briefing in the Redwood Lodge, Lt. Ryan Peterson said that APD staffing would not be extraordinary, but that police were ready for anything. The department’s mobile command post was not used, as it had been in past years.
Peterson said his goal was to enforce the AMC and keep the park user-friendly for families, dog walkers, picnickers and disc flingers. As he spoke, two families with children took advantage of the smoke-free playset in the park’s playground, the kids’ exuberant peals of glee ringing out across the vast, green park meadow.