For roughly 42 percent of students living off campus, there are quite a few who live close enough to Pacific University, but who walk to and from campus daily.
Although the walk is generally not a long one for most students, there are areas where lighting makes the trek feel unsafe.
The Boxer Apartments, just off of Main Street and behind the baseball field, is a popular location for many students, so popular that there is a break in the fence and a connection to one of the pathways in Lincoln Park just for students to walk to campus.
Students are notorious for taking the shortest and the most direct path that they can take, this can be seen around campus with the many walkways that students have carved for themselves to get from class to class.
To encourage students to take the walkway through Lincoln Park during the day, the City of Forest Grove created an opening in the fence that borders the Boxer Apartments. Although students are encouraged to use the pathway during the day, the park is actually closed one hour after the sun sets.
Many students aren’t aware of the park’s closing hours and still use the pathways after dark.
“I regularly walk back late at night and often times I feel safe until I get to Lincoln Park Stadium because of how dark it is,” said senior Ben Cheek.
An issue that has risen is that students don’t feel safe on the path that they take the most.
“It’s not well lit and I worry about being attacked,” said junior Tyler Gilmore. “ Which is saying something, because culturally, a 6’3” tall, athletic looking male shouldn’t feel concerned about an attack. However, it is not a comfortable nighttime path.”
The preferred route for Forest Grove’s Park and Recreation Director Tom Gamble is for students to walk on Main Street.
“If [students] walk from the university to the Boxer apartments, to walk another 150 ft. to Main Street,” said Gamble. “That is lit is really the safest thing to do.”
Lincoln Park is owned by the City of Forest Grove, not Pacific University. The university is renting out the land from the city in a 99-year contract. Like any of the other city parks, this one follows the same rule: the park is closed one hour after sunset.
Not only are students unaware of this rule, but there are not very many signs or enforcement of the park’s closure.
“I was not aware of the rule but I have never seen any park officials patrolling the area,” said Cheek. “I have seen other people using the park for various things but never an official.”
One of the suggestions made was to put lights up in the park to ensure students felt safe on their walks home. Gamble countered this suggestion arguing that it would only encourage after hour usage of the park.
“It’s inviting people into the park and it’s not safety lighting and nobody’s out there,” said Gamble. “No, city ordinance, so people should not be out there anyway.”
Students, however, feel that lighting might be the best solution. “I think more lights would greatly help deter any crime and help people feel safe,” said Cheek. “Luckily I am a bigger guy so I feel safer than some but I understand how people wouldn’t feel safe because of the darkness and hiding places that someone could use.”
If students are at risk by taking that path at night, and they can’t be dissuaded by signs, Director of Student Activities and Advisor to Student Senate, Steve Klein may be inclined to push a little harder for lighting.
“It’s paramount that students are safe, we don’t want any kind of problem,” said Klein. “It almost becomes an insurance question to management or the City of Forest Grove. Without a fence that isn’t showing that the park is closed it is welcoming people in and we could be liable.”
In the end, the park belongs to the City of Forest Grove, until there are any changes, students are encouraged to walk on the lit Main Street where they are safer according to Gamble.
“Eventually people have to take their own safety into their own hands,” said Gamble. “People have to take that personal responsibility and walk where it is lit or walk with a buddy. It’s when you put on your life jacket and when you don’t.”