Bill Finnegan of Phoenix donated four golf carts valued at $20,000 to patrol the Bear Creek Greenway bike path, but the carts have been used only occasionally. - Bob Pennell

Cart patrols languish

Not a rich man by any means, Bill Finnegan thought he had a good reason for shelling out $20,000 to buy four golf carts to patrol the Bear Creek Greenway.

"After that little girl was raped, I was so enraged I couldn't stand it," he said.

A 15-year-old was raped on the Greenway on March 4, 2005, leading to a public outcry over homeless camps along Bear Creek and calls for more police patrols.

The 89-year-old Phoenix resident, who has lived for the past 15 years in a recreational vehicle park, said he fully expected to see the carts rolling up and down the pedestrian and bike pathway after he gave them to Greenway officials shortly after the attack.

He even received a plaque honoring him for his donation.

On his daily trips to the Greenway, Finnegan said he has kept an eye out for the carts, which are gas powered rather than electrically driven so they can spend more hours in service.

"In all this time I have yet to see one," he said.

Phoenix Police Chief Kurt Barthel, who has been trying to rebuild a police department rocked by scandal and funding problems, said he wasn't aware that Finnegan bought the golf cart, which sits in a storage shed in the city's Public Works Department yard.

Barthel said he had a meeting just last week to explore whether the department even needed the cart, which he didn't realize was a donation.

"We don't need a piece of equipment that isn't being used," he said.

Barthel said police cars patrol the Greenway from time to time if there is an emergency, but as to the golf cart, he said, "We used it three times over the summer."

As part of his reorganizing effort, Barthel said it will be important to properly patrol the Greenway, but he hasn't determined how the cart would be involved in that effort.

Joy Olson, executive director of the Bear Creek Greenway Foundation, said the foundation welcomed Finnegan's donation. She even remembered the enthusiasm she felt on the day she went with Finnegan to Naumes Equipment to purchase the carts.

Originially, the carts were supposed to go to Central Point, Ashland, Talent and Phoenix, she said, but Talent didn't want the cart, so it eventually went to Medford, where volunteers patrol the Greenway in conjunction with the police department.

The Greenway Foundation acknowledged Finnegan's donation in the summer of 2005 in its newsletter: "Please help us thank Bill Finnegan and all the wonderful volunteers spending their time to help keep us safer on the trail."

Finnegan, who worked with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for 22 years, said he made the donation in memory of his brother, Dr. John Finnegan, whose name appears on the front of the carts.

Olson said she was under the impression that most communities were still using the golf carts for Greenway patrols.

Matt Samitore, manager of Central Point Parks and Recreation Department, said the cart in his city is used primarily by maintenance workers on the Greenway.

"They go out at least once a week," he said.

The cart was also used during the Fourth of July parade.

He said Central Point police patrol the Greenway on bicycles, and he didn't realize the donated cart was supposed to be used primarily for patrols.

"We could probably have police volunteers use them," he said. "I wouldn't be opposed to that."

Samitore said there would be liability problems with allowing the general public to volunteer to use the cart for patrols.

"Obviously if we had unlimited staffing, we would have people out on the Greenway everyday," he said.

One of Finnegan's golf carts is at the storage yard at Ashland Public Works. City workers were not sure how often it was used to patrol the Greenway, but they said it was used around the yard and in parades.

Finnegan said he was hoping the carts would be a warning to anyone thinking of using the Greenway to commit crimes. He said he doesn't have a problem with the carts being used for other purposes as long as they're used primarily for patrolling the Greenway.

"If it's doing some good, I'm happy," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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