'Held hostage': Cocoa city leaders consider closing Gilmore Park to decrease loitering, crime concerns

A local park could end up shutting down as city leaders try and find new solutions to curb crime and keep the surrounding neighborhood safe. 

Concerns are growing at Gilmore Community Park, which has been in Cocoa for decades, but some city leaders said the problems at the one-acre park are intensifying. Cocoa Police shared calls for service data with FOX 35 which shows more than 1,500 incidents at the park last year. 

Longtime residents have noticed changes. 

"Over the years, it was pretty crowded with kids," said Robert Harley who often brings his granddaughter to the park, but sees fewer kids using it. 

He said other parents tend to avoid the area. Instead of kids, city leaders are noticing other people hanging out at the park. 

"You have playgrounds where you have adults sleeping at the park or sleeping on the slide or camping out on the basketball courts," said Cocoa Councilman Alex Goins. 

Goins is spearheading the conversation about the future of Gilmore Community Park. He lead a meeting on Monday to hear from neighbors and look into solutions. 

"The neighborhood should not feel like they’re being held hostage," Goins said. 

Hurley still brings his 1-year-old granddaughter to the park but knows not everyone feels safe. 

"Parents are concerned, so they take them somewhere else," he added. "But I still stick to this park. I believe in it." 

Goins says more security, maintenance and maybe banning cars could help lessen the issue. He also thinks the acre it sits on could be used for something else altogether.  

"Turn that into affordable housing, or what we call – workforce housing," the councilman said. 

The future of this park is in limbo, but not everyone’s on the same page about solutions.  

"If they’re turning it into housing, who’s to say the crime will increase or decrease?," asked park user Keith R. Lewis. 

Nothing is set in stone at this time, but the city does want to see something done to decrease loitering and other incidents. Goins said if they do choose to close it down, they’ll move the playground to another park that’s about a half mile away.