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Common sense required

Every year, as tourist season begins in Ashland and as the weather grows warm, the transients (“travelers” as many style themselves) arrive. Tourists, thinking them year-round residents, take pity, handing out money and leftovers. The travelers have a good gig here and our town is very tolerant of them.

Last year, on Oct. 24, I was harassed by four travelers, physically attacked by two, and bitten by their dog. My assailants have warrants out for their arrest. Never did I think, when I made mention in a letter to the Tidings (Sept. 7, 2018) of toddlers potentially being mauled by a transient-owned pit bull that I would be the one bitten!

Many residents spoke to me, expressing how upset they were when they heard about my attack and voiced their frustration at the behavior of the travelers. I don’t pretend to know what the solution to this problem is. I know that mental illness and addiction issues are rife in this country. This is a national problem that has trickled down to local communities.

The solutions that cities and small towns offer are mere Band-aids to a larger systemic issue. We can blame President Reagan all we want for the deinstitutionalization of mental hospitals, but there have been several presidents since Reagan, both Republican and Democrat. Neither party has done anything to make a significant difference.

My attack originated at the corner of Granite and High streets. This location falls under the Ashland Parks and Recreation department. It’s a lovely area made more so by the Rio Amistad mosaic and a bench for visitors. Very few locals or tourists can enjoy this setting as the travelers claim ownership. I have seen as many as 12-15 in this area, but even one or two will make others feel not just unwelcome, but unsafe. They harass pedestrians as they go to and from their cars. Drug deals and drug use take place here, drinking occurs and public urination; they litter, fight and make merry. There is a notice that smoking and vaping are not allowed and surprisingly it is not a deterrent.

Local communities must balance charity with common sense. Currently there are no plans to monitor this area with security cameras. That is unfortunate. We have cameras to monitor the skateboard park and for years there was a camera that monitored the activity at the Butler-Perozzi Fountain. What happened to me could happen to anyone. However, I do wonder, if I was female, would the city of Ashland and the Parks Department consider cameras a necessary security in this area? Would KAWS (Keep Ashland Women Safe) come to my defense? Does our culture assume that since men are known to engage in physical altercations with one another that my attack isn’t to be taken seriously? Will someone else’s attack, when it occurs, be given greater consideration?

Liberals often speak of “safe spaces.” There are no safe spaces. No space will ever be completely safe, however the city of Ashland and the Parks Department could be more proactive in regard to the travelers while balancing realistic expectations. Security cameras would serve as a legitimate deterrent to a problematic area. Without such common-sense solutions citizens might have to resort to our own. One such common-sense solution could very well be that we need to start carrying our own protection.

Christopher Johnson lives in Ashland.