Gunfire, noise at Stovall Park has neighbors demanding change

Neighbors of a popular Arlington park are fed-up with nuisance probems disturbing their peace

  • S.J. Stovall Park
    S.J. Stovall Park (Courtesy Zack Maxwell / Arlington Voice)
  • The fenceline of a neighborhood just West of Stovall Park backs up to a parking lot
    The fenceline of a neighborhood just West of Stovall Park backs up to a parking lot which has created late-night problems for neighbors (Courtesy Zack Maxwell / Arlington Voice)
  • Josh Turman speaks to the Park and Recreation Board
    Josh Turman speaks to the Park and Recreation Board Thursday evening (Courtesy Zack Maxwell / Arlington Voice)
Zack Maxwell

Residents of a Southwest Arlington neighborhood are banding together to move back the closing time of a popular park after experiencing persistent nuisance issues.

Noise complaints, gunshots, fights, and swarms of park visitors are among some of the issues that have plagued neighbors of S.J. Stovall Park during late-night hours.

The problems began after the construction of the Bad Königshofen Family Aquatic Center in 2006. At that time, the City adjusted the park's closing hours to midnight, which has invited problem guests to loiter the park late at night.

After years of issues with no clear solution in sight, residents living in an adjacent neighborhood along Calendar Road on the west side of the park are hoping they can convince the City to reset the park's closing time to 10 p.m.

For resident Josh Turman, the problems were so bad that he invested more than $12,000 building an eight-foot-tall privacy fence and adding soundproof windows to his home, which backs up to one of the park’s parking lots.

“There’s homeowners’ rights versus the privilege to use the park,” Turman said. “People that live in these houses have a right to peace and quiet.”

The loud music and yelling from visitors hanging out at the park’s pavilion and in the parking lot late at night wakes him up multiple times a week. The Parks and Recreation Department ceased issuing amplified noise permits for the park’s pavilion space in May 2015, but that hasn’t abated the issue.

“This year, we’ve experienced three-to-four gunshots fired at the park after 10 p.m.,” Turman said. “In one instance, someone got a shotgun out and fired shots in the air. When police responded, they found spent casings on the ground.”

Fourth of July created another headache for neighbors when hundreds of out-of-town visitors flooded the park and began setting off fireworks.

“You would have thought it was a professional firework show that you pay to attend,” said Diane Norris, another neighbor of the park. “I was watching from my porch to make sure my house didn’t catch on fire. They were firing bottle rockets into my yard.”

Norris recounted one incident in which she caught two trespassers scaling the fence to her property.

“We have little recourse because it takes police sometimes hours to respond to our calls,” she said.

In the instance of the trespassers, it took police almost four hours to respond, Norris claimed.

“By the time police arrived, the suspects were gone,” Norris said. “Trespassers just run away when they’re caught.”

The responding officer advised Norris to install security cameras on her house, which she did. But it hasn’t changed her perception of the park.

“This is not a community park for the neighbors,” Norris said. “Neighbors will not walk in the park after 10 p.m., because they don’t feel safe. Whoever is using it after that time is not from the area.”

In 2016, following a town hall meeting with District 2 Councilwoman Sheri Capehart, the police department elevated the priority status of calls related to the park. But that has reportedly been dialed back in recent time.

Turman, Norris, and several other fed-up neighbors attended a Park and Recreation Board meeting Thursday evening to air their grievances, and again request a change in park hours.

Chairwoman Donna Darovich acknowledged their concerns, but told the audience any change in park hours would have to be approved by the City Council.

“When you have a concern that’s affecting your life, you go through the proper channels,” Darovich said. “It sounds like you all are doing the right thing.”

For Turman and his neighbors, they’re left with few other options.

“If we can’t get some kind of action out of the City on this soon, then we may be left with no other option but to seek legal remedy,” he said.

Parks and Recreation Director Lemuel Randolph told the board that the City Council has requested a briefing at a future meeting. The subject is tentatively scheduled for the August 22 meeting.