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Man with metal detector fails to dig up Mason City support

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MASON CITY | James Sayles came to the Mason City Park Board meeting with a bag full of items he has collected from using his metal detector on the grounds of East Park.

He wanted support from the board for him to be able to continue with his hobby, but in that respect, he left empty handed.

And it is the very relics he seeks to find with his metal detector that are part of the downfall to his request.

City Planner Tricia Sandahl informed board members in a memo that provisions of the flood buyout grants for the East Park area include "protection of archaeological remains."

She said, "We're not allowed to disturb the ground within three feet of a previously disturbed area like a building foundation, sidewalk, etc."

She said the requirements are permanent unless the city receives specific permission to move dirt. "It would be inappropriate for people to be out metal detecting on the buyout lots," said Sandahl.

Sayles came to the Park Board's Tuesday meeting after a park official stopped him recently from metal detecting in East Park. Sayles was furious.

He wrote a letter to the Park Board saying he was treated rudely adding, "I have been metal detecting in Mason City's parks for years, welcomed and greeted by citizens and police and even park workers many times.

"I know that city code nor any ordinances are in effect that prohibits this useful hobby, nor should there be."

He came to the Park Board seeking clarification.

In a separate memo to the Park Board, Street Superintendent Bob Berggren said two sections of a city ordinance come into play. One says no one "shall deface or injure any building, tree, shrub or plant or other improvements" in the parks.

The other says no one "shall scatter or litter the grounds," which Berggren said would apply to material dug from the ground and scattered about.

He also pointed out liability issues if people were to step into holes left by prospectors and also to problems if electrical or water lines were hit.

Operations Manager Bill Stangler told the board, "You have to ask yourself if you want to accept the liability."

Board member Frank Pearson said, "I hate to tread on anybody's hobby, but it only takes one guy to screw it up."  

He suggested, and other board members agreed, that a sentence be added to the city code specifically prohibiting use of metal detectors in city parks.

City Administrator Brent Trout said he work to have the additional language ready for Park Board approval at its next meeting.

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