The Wilton Manors Police Department says that sexual activity at Colohatchee Park is down, but that the problem still isn’t over.
The park has been used as a sex rendezvous for over a decade, and even appears on a gay cruising website, CruisingGays.com, as a place with “All kinds of guys from twinks to older gents to musclemen looking for a quick blow job.”
In 2006, the Sun Sentinel reported on “Operation Get-A-Room” which was an effort by police to dissuade people from using the park for sex.
That reputation has caused some residents to stop using the park.
Domaris Cobian, a first-time park user who lives in Fort Lauderdale, said she was unaware of the park’s reputation but said she would continue to use it because it feels like a safe place.
At a recent commission meeting, resident Boyd Corbin said he saw a man at Colohatchee masturbating. Corbin criticized the city for not doing enough. “They seem to think they can clean it up with an event every so often,” he said, referring to the Woof & Wine events held there. Previously, officials have said that the more the park is used by dog owners, the less likely it will be used for sex.
“The WMPD has not made any arrests at Colohatchee Park for lewd behavior or sexual acts over the last six months . . . Our work is not done until this activity ceases to exist,” wrote Assistant Police Chief Gary Blocker in an email. Blocker outlined a number of efforts that have been undertaken to address the problem: locking the bathroom door [the bathroom at the boat ramp remains unlocked], blocking off a “troublesome section of the boardwalk to mitigate unwanted lewd and sexual activity,” walking patrols of the park by police, a park ranger, and city staff, and a plan to add enhancements and programming to the park.
According to the minutes of the Oct. 19 meeting of the Recreation Advisory Board, Leisure Services Department Director Patrick Cann said that boardwalk reinforcements would be undertaken and the city would “add a fitness trail and fitness zones and improve the dog play areas while removing the underutilized features” of the park.
“It just needs a lot of work. It just needs a good overhaul,” said former mayor John Fiore about the park at a commission meeting several months ago. One resident, who now uses a dog park closer to his home and asked to have his name withheld from publication, said he’s not sure if the park will ever stop completely being a place where men come to have sex. In particular, he didn’t thinking locking the bathroom was the right solution to the problem.
“It’s a band aid. I don’t think there is a solution . . . You can’t arrest your way out of this. But I’m excited the city is going to revamp the park.”