Jim Mayfield says he drives past Patriots Park every day. What he has seen on many occasions has alarmed him.
Despite signs that urge visitors not to park in front of the entrance/exit for emergency vehicles, Mayfield says he sees people do it every day.
Ambulances cannot get to the athletic fields as quickly if the entrance designed for them is blocked. In addition, he said, trying to merge into traffic in a 55 mph zone on Columbia Road with a blind spot and a hill is a safety concern.
"It's the old adage: It's not if something will happen, but when," the Grovetown resident said. "I don't know what it takes. I would assume it's going to take some child to be hurt or killed."
After a while, he started asking those who parked illegally at the site not to do so. All he got in return were angry responses.
"I've been to the county commission. I've been to the sheriff. I personally sat down with the sheriff of Columbia County twice," Mayfield said. "I've met with probably four or five different deputies.
"Nobody does anything about it. They keep saying, 'Well, maybe someday we'll have voluntary compliance.' "
Columbia County Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Morris said he would encourage those who witness violations to report them to the sheriff's office. That way, there will be a specific complaint for deputies to act on.
"If they are blocking the entrance and we are called, we would certainly address that," Morris said. "Depending on the circumstances ... hypothetically speaking, we would generally issue a warning. For repeat offenders, we would issue citations."
Morris said he was not aware of any recent complaints regarding the issue.
"We have not been receiving complaints of late, so I'm not sure it's an issue," he said.
Gold Cross Emergency Medical Services Inc. is the sole provider of emergency medical service to Columbia County. Frank Lindley, chief financial officer for Gold Cross, says that most people don't realize the hazards of blocking an emergency entrance/exit.
"We all try to get there to get to emergent need," Lindley said. "It's kind of like running a relay. There are hurdles you have to hop over to get to somebody. The public tends to create many of the hurdles.
"Yet when you have a family member hurt, the clock seems to just drag."
Lindley said he had advice on how to curb the problem.
"Tow a few cars," he said. "They'd get the message real quick."
Charlie Beale, manager of the Columbia County Recreation Department, said there is plenty of parking available in lots and that more has been added since the park opened in 1992.
He stressed that the soccer and football fields can be accessed from anywhere.
"People just don't want to walk," Beale said.
He said parking in front of the emergency entrance/exit is one of many parking issues. Visitors also will park on the yellow curbs and on the grass, Beale said.
He noted that the area outside of the emergency entrance/exit is not considered part of the park. Therefore, the recreation department has no authority in that area.
"We'll tell people at the start of the year," Beale said. "We talk to coaches at meetings and tell them to tell their parents. ... Some people are going to do what they want to anyway."
Mayfield believes it comes down to laziness.
"They bring their children to play baseball, but they're too lazy to walk from the parking area to where their child is playing," he said. "It sets a very bad example for the kids."
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