It used to be called the "crown jewel" of the Columbia parks system.
But the label no longer fits.
Anyone visiting the Capital City's Finlay Park these days can hardly miss the depressing degree of decay.
The corroded and damaged fences.
Weeds and beer cans.
A playground area that lost its playground last year.
The missing or indecipherable historical markers.
Non-functioning drinking fountains.
And most obvious---the broken down water features including the once-iconic spiral waterfall on the park's upper level.
All this, as the city's Main Street, Vista, areas around the USC campus and now even North Main have been re-energized and reborn.
Meanwhile, time has taken its toll on infrastructure at Finlay Park and it’s now become more of an eyesore than an attraction.
It is also known as a hangout for the city’s homeless population and last week police responded to a deadly shooting in the park.
The Columbia Police department has spent nearly five thousand man-hours this year controlling crime around the park and nearby areas.
Chief Skip Holbrook admits there’s no easy answer.
"It's that gray area that we see a lot of our homeless folks operating in whether it's you know at a park bench or a transit stop bench," Holbrook said. "There's a fine line between loitering, criminal activity and your right to be in a public place.
There are efforts underway to polish up Finlay Park.
A new playground is on the way this summer.
And Parks and Rec is planning to restart the signature spiral fountain.
However, the fact remains, right now the park that was designed to be Columbia’s crown jewel is actually an embarrassment.
Fixing Finlay Park will take money and leadership, but we believe it’s worth the investment.
Now is the time to invest in Columbia’s future and bring the families back to Finlay Park.
That’s my take, what’s yours?
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