Olympia police crack down on drug dealing in downtown park

OLYMPIA -- Olympia's Artesian Commons Park was meant to be an urban oasis with fresh water and a place to chill.

Locals say it was that way for a while, but not so much anymore.

"It's really kind of gone downhill. It's not really a comfortable place I enjoy being anymore,” said Ryan Richardson, who opposes the park.

"There is criminal activity thriving over there, abuse and neglect of young people, young women especially, drug abuse. I saw some of it and called police,” park supporter Danielle Ruse said.

Ruse works right across the street and, in spite of her concerns, she supports the Artesian Commons Park, because she sees it as something that is sorely needed.

"It's like an incredible eyesore for the community that is trying to look straight laced and nice and polished; it's just like hundreds of kids doing what kids do,” Ruse said.

That may be true but Olympia police see something more sinister -- drug dealing and the crime that goes with it.

"I've never seen it but I know what's going on, you see a couple of folks together whispering,” bartender John Boyce said.

Olympia police have stepped up patrols in and around the park; they even arrested two suspected drug dealers just last week.

Monday night, they arrested a man at the park.

Supporters and even those who oppose the park seem to agree, the homeless and transient kids need somewhere to go and something to keep them out of trouble.

"If you're past the age of needing adult supervision but can't drink, there's just not a lot to do,” park supporter Kayleigh Langseth said.

"When you have a lot of kids with empty hands and nothing to do, giving them something to do ... changes their lives,” Ruse said.

This controversy could end up being a lot to do about nothing; the City Council is considering fencing this park off from the public with the exception of the well.

But there is also a move afoot to create a public/private partnership to provide financing to create a park that would be acceptable and enjoyable to everyone.