Take back the park

State police conducted another roundup last week of people suspected of engaging in public sex at Conway Robinson Memorial State Forest in Gainesville. This is the second mass arrest performed by the police in less than a year. Judging by the list of addresses of the men caught engaging in this illegal activity, it’s easy to see that Conway Robinson was well on its way to becoming a public sex playground.

These weren’t just local men looking for an anonymous rendezvous at the Gainesville park. In fact, most were from outside Prince William with a few coming from out of state. The park was established to provide residents with recreational opportunities among the trees of an undisturbed forest something that’s in short supply in Northern Virginia. When the park becomes known on the Internet as a good place to “cruise for sex,” however, it drives away most of the residents for which the park was built.

Law enforcement authorities were alerted to problems at Conway Robinson earlier this year when a Scout troop camping in the area walked up on two men engaging in sexual activity. There lies the problem. This activity does nothing but drive away patrons from a public park built and operated for the enjoyment of the people. If a Scout troop is deterred from using the park, then it’s just as unfriendly toward families and individuals.

Those arrested last week and back in May are probably people who live normal lives. Being arrested and convicted of the crimes that go along with public sex in parks is something that is not easy to live with. It brings harsh penalties and public shame. That’s the price paid for depriving the park from those who want to use it lawfully.

These men are not targeted because of their gender or sexual orientation. The laws are enforced to protect the public who have a right to enjoy the park without being disturbed by people looking for or engaging in these acts.

It was a sad commentary when state police had to use their limited resources to clean up the park in May. The second sweep shows that the problem is not going away. If that’s the case, then the police will have to continue sweeping the park until word gets out that Conway Robinson is being reclaimed in the name of the public it serves.

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