Cousler Park should bring back hoops

York Dispatch Editorial Board
The basketball hoops on the courts at Cousler Park, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, have been removed in the wake of a shooting death of a man there in July. Bill Kalina photo

Cousler Park has ... changed.

A homicide will do that to a space, even one as green and full of life as the Manchester Township park.

There are only a couple of physical reminders of the July 5 shooting that killed Justin Griffith, 20, of Spring Garden Township, and wounded another young man.

The candles and flowers that sprung up near the basketball courts have been removed. And so have the hoops on the once-crowded basketball courts.

The nets on the adjacent beach volleyball courts remain. 

More:'We can't be putting our heads in the sand': Officials crack down after Cousler Park shooting

More:Coroner releases autopsy report of man shot to death at Cousler Park

The baseball and soccer fields are still at the pandemic levels of busy, with practices and tournaments continuing.

Concerts play at the stage beside the pond, and families with dogs and babies walk the trails. Players volley on the tennis courts, and children climb on the playground equipment.

Yes, there are fewer people. Some glance toward the empty basketball courts, some stay far away. 

The crowds of young men (and some women) who once jockeyed for position and ran for the nets seem to have melted away. They aren't part of the baseball teams or the soccer practices. They aren't playing tennis or climbing the rope structure or watching the family movies playing on the stage by the pond.

They're just not there. That's the point of taking down basketball nets, to send the basketball players somewhere else.

"We believe it was the right approach, the reactive approach," township Manager Timothy R. James said of the removal of the basketball rims.

Yes, a reactive approach. A reaction to an unsolved fatal shooting: Don't give the people who were around a reason to come back.

In this case, the people were a group of young men, probably a mix of races, if other days on the courts at the park were any indication.

Yes, something needed to be done, obviously. A fatal shooting at a public park must be answered for safety's sake, especially since Northern York County Regional Police say they have no further information to release weeks after Griffith's death.

But the optics of getting rid of basketball hoops and subsequently the basketball players are awkward at best. 

As the rims went down, a surveillance camera went up to record activity on the basketball courts, pavilion, parking lot and volleyball court. 

"(The park) has policed itself for all these years," James said. "But we can't be putting our heads in the sand and think that it's going to continue to be that way."

The next decision for the township, James said, is when — or if — to put the basketball hoops back up, as well as adding more surveillance cameras and possibly a license-plate reader.

We urge the staff to replace the hoops sooner rather than later, both as a show of good will toward people who just want to play basketball and to counter the thought that there might be some people who aren't exactly welcome in the park.