ST. HELENS — Sand Island, a popular 42-acre park located a short boat ride from Olde Towne, is at the center of a city discussion regarding safety in St. Helens parks.

The city is working to combat the island's reputation as a no-rules party zone, said police chief Steven Salle'.

Large crowds of clamorous campers have put a strain on island facilities in years past. Although most visitors act responsibly, a smaller contingent has wreaked regular havoc, city officials say.

Park visitors have committed the gamut of offenses, from dragging picnic tables into the water to hacking down trees with chainsaws to engaging in drunken brawls.

Law enforcement is prepping for another boisterous season, with the July 4 weekend at its epicenter: many residents are expected to head to the island to enjoy a city-sponsored fireworks display on Independence Day.

In anticipation of the large crowds, police officers will be on hand. No campfires or personal fireworks will be permitted on Sand Island during the city's Fourth of July fireworks show, Salle' said.

The police are called out to the island fairly regularly, he said, but the police department doesn't own a functioning watercraft, which has made keeping an eye on the park difficult.

Two months back, the city of St. Helens opted not to resume a summer shuttle service to the island. They cited cost concerns and primitive facilities as the main reasons.

Restroom improvements and other possible betterments, including lights and a park monitoring system, are still on the table, but the park's longer future remains unclear.

Councilor Phil Barlow cited trash accumulation and inadequate police and fire accessibility as viable reasons for shutting the park down.

The park will remain open, said Mayor Randy Peterson, but the city's approach to maintaining and policing the park will have to be rethought as its popularity increases.

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