Community meeting reviews Fairmount Park safety plan

WICHITA, Kansas – More than 40 people attended a community meeting Thursday night that focused on improving safety in and around Fairmount Park in northeast Wichita.

The movement to create a safer environment around the park began after 36-year-old Letitia Davis was assaulted and burned in the Park in November 2014. She died a few days after she was attacked.

On the one-year anniversary of her death, more than a dozen people, including students, police and city officials, took part in a neighborhood walk to see what security improvements could be made to the park.

Ted Ayres, Wichita State University’s Director of Community Engagement was one of those at the Thursday night meeting.

“The university has the opportunity to facilitate communication, conversation, collaboration,” said Ayres.  “And, we think it’s really important to recognize that our efforts here need to be, must be community driven.”

Wichita State has a strong relationship with residents of the neighborhood around the park, and Ayres says it’s important to involve the surrounding residents in the community action plan.

“We will develop priorities, trying to get to a point where we can check them off, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and actually get things done, and I think getting things done are critical to our success,” Ayres said.

Faye Leach is a long-time resident of the area around Fairmount Park.  She’s owned a home in the neighborhood since 1950 and says the area will always be her home.

“I believe in this community 100% and boy, I will go to their meetings and support them,” Leach said.

“These trees are 50, 60 years old and they haven’t been trimmed, and they have been working on the lights here in the park,” she said.

Although Fairmount Park tends to have a negative reputation when it comes to safety, Ayres says it’s a safer area than people perceive, and he’s hoping with more improvements to the neighborhood people will come to realize that.

Many of the lights in Fairmount Park aren’t working, and at the tennis and basketball courts there’s no lighting at all.

The report recommends adding LED lights to brighten up the area.

Another step that’s already in the works is the “Fairmount Front Porch Light Illumination Program” where homeowners who live near the park burn their porch lights to add light to the area.  The project also is getting some financial help from Westar Energy.

Ayres says the most important aspect of the project to make the park safer is community involvement.

“The University has the opportunity to facilitate communication, conversation, collaboration, and we thing it’s really important, and we recognize that our efforts here need to be, must be community driven,” said Ayres.

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