Police in London are hoping to reinvent a local park with a reputation for being a go-to spot for gay men looking for hanky panky. Their plan? Invite young children to the area and call it a “family fun” day!
Last weekend, Beaulieu Heights Park in Croydon, London was transformed from a seedy and secluded gay sex spot into a children’s paradise. At least of for a few hours.
Sergeant Leah MacDonald, one of the event’s organizers, told the Croydon Guardian, “Since the 60s the park has been used as a gay cruising location and has developed a reputation as not being somewhere people want to go or take their children. We wanted to encourage local people to come and use their park and not feel they have to avoid the area.”
Cake stalls, face painting, booths and other outdoor activities were used to lure families into the park.
MacDonald added that the day was not intended to marginalize gay people in any way.
“The day was about us telling people that if they have a problem they can come and talk to us, and this refers to the gay community as well,” she said. “If they are on the receiving end of homophobic abuse or persecution we want them to feel they can tell us.”
But not everyone agrees with the police’s plan.
“My house practically backs on to these woods and I have never witnessed any trouble from its users,” a woman named Charlotte commented on PinkNewsUK. “I do take exception to Croydon alluding to the ‘safety’ of children and the need to make it ‘family friendly’. In fact the only danger that has occurred has been homophobic abuse and violence, including one poor man who was murdered in 2001.”
“I don’t see why there can’t be one area in such parks marked out for cruising,” another person added. “Then people can choose which area they’d rather be in.”