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Helmut Schmidt, Published August 16 2009

Fargo Park District to compile 'trespass' list

Being “trespassed” or banned from specific Fargo Park District facilities is a rarity, a punishment that has only touched two people in the past two to three years, according to Executive Director Roger Gress.

But being indefinitely suspended from certain activities? That’s something that occurs far more often.

The Park District currently has at least 25 people indefinitely suspended in the last year from activities such as soccer or hockey, Director of Recreation Clay Whittlesey said.

Another 16 people have been reinstated over the past three or four years after petitioning to return and promising not to repeat violent, confrontational or unsportsmanlike activity, Whittlesey said.

There is also no single list of who is sanctioned by the Park District, making it difficult to determine with certainty how many people are being sanctioned for bad behavior now or how many have been sanctioned in the past.

The Fargo Police Department, the agency which enforces any bans from Park District property, also doesn’t track numbers.

Police spokesman Sgt. Mark Lykken said the department’s database of 200,000 yields notes in a confidential section for individuals being checked, but the software will not produce a comprehensive listing of people who are “trespassed” by the Park District.

When the lack of a master list was brought up in an interview, Gress said it was being considered.

“Certainly we’ve thought about it,” he said. “Yes, we will reorganize, so that we do have a running list that we can immediately go back to.”

The Forum sought answers, and how many people have received the sanction for Fargo park facilities, when a man was “trespassed” after the report of an Aug. 2 assault at Rose Creek Golf Course.

In that case, 57-year-old Donald Sauvageau of Fargo was arrested on suspicion he hit another golfer in the head with a sand wedge. His attorney claims Sauvageau, who is charged with a felony in the case, acted in self defense. His next court appearance is Sept. 3.

Sauvageau is banned from Fargo golf courses for the rest of this year and 2010, Gress said.

Gress said the other trespass incident involved a minor female who was the subject of a criminal investigation by police.

To be trespassed by the Park District means a person can’t use a facility, usually for 90 days, said Finance Director Jim Larson. Violations are handled by the police, he said.

Whittlesey said 25 people are currently suspended indefinitely from taking part in adult sports – 13 suspended from an outdoor soccer team from an incident involving a referee last summer, and 12 from an indoor soccer team.

The punishment is not restricted to humans. A dog was trespassed from a dog park “because it was starting fights,” Whittlesey said.

Most of the problems occur when adults get hypercompetitive and forget they’re playing a game.

“I saw a guy pull off a shoe and beat a guy (on a soccer field). Another guy pulled out a knife in hockey. A soccer player spat in an official’s face,” Whittlesey said

Sometimes, too, parents watching sons or daughters can get out of hand and face sanctions.

Incidents are reviewed, and sometimes warning letters are written. If a person is suspended or trespassed, they can meet with Gress or take their appeal to the Park Board.

If a participant is reinstated, they must sign a waiver saying they won’t commit a serious offense again, Whittlesey said.

The last time Whittlesey remembers an assault was perhaps six of seven years ago, when a broomball player hit another with a broom in a parking lot.

“He hasn’t played in the leagues for many years,” Whittlesey said. “That happens in adults sports. They’re competitive and tempers flare. That doesn’t make it right, but it does happen.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583