A mom posted a message on Facebook recently cautioning parents to keep kids away from the Richland skate park. I love that park so I called the Richland Police to get the facts and was really surprised what I learned:

The mom wrote,

FYI, for anyone who takes their kidlets to the Richland skate park, the CUP child care director said there have been more than 20 heroin overdoses there recently. The city has locked down the bathrooms (which were creepy and disgusting anyway, and I wouldn't let my kids use it) and CUP has had to do key card entry to their building due to creepy folks and druggies coming in to "use the bathroom". So just be careful."

Lt. Chris Lee of the Richland Police Department said there was an overdose on April 24. The person had been in the Central United Protestant Church across from the park and then collapsed in the parking lot. Nothing like 20 overdoses, though. In fact, there have been no more ODs (or possible ODs) this year than any previous year.

Other Facebook users also questioned the number, saying they work nearby and don't see ambulances often.

Problems do exist, Lee said, but because it is a public park it's hard to keep people away unless they're caught doing something illegal.

Two problems not specific to that skate park, but which are worrisome, he said, are an increase in overdoses, and transients sleeping in public bathrooms.

Heroine is tricky, he explained, because different batches have different potency. Someone can use a dosage that is normally safe for them, but if they bought it from a dealer it could be too much and they OD. Heroine use has increased in recent years because it has fallen in price while hydrocodone and oxycontin have gone up.

And the park officials have started locking park bathrooms at night, including the skate park, because transients are sleeping in them. So there's that.

The hard part for police and parks and rec. is banning people just because you're suspicious, Lee said.

How do you know, other than your gut telling you they're up to no good? What do you do? We can't use that to arrest someone or ban them from the city park."