Skaters express concerns to city leaders

A new group, Friends of the Skate Park, met on June 29 to discuss improving the Grove City Skate Park and raising funds.

Skaters who use the park said the city should add a water fountain, rest rooms, new features to the street skate area and a mini ramp. First, the group wants to clean things up.

The trouble

Some residents said the Skate Park is more like a teenage hangout. Parents at the meeting said the problem is not with the skaters, but the other teens who just come to loiter. One parent said she recently saw a group of teens at the park with a tent and a keg of beer.

Another parent said she suspects there is even drug dealing.

"There are some serious issues that need to be addressed," said Grove City Parks and Recreation Director Kim Conrad.  

Conrad explained that there are security cameras at the park, with night vision. If an issue is brought to the city’s attention, they can get the police department to look at the tapes.

"Right now, the cameras are not monitored around the clock," said Conrad. "There has been talk of hiring a staff member or an officer that is assigned to control the crowd."

Parents and teenagers at the meeting said the police department could do more, but need to "chill out" when dealing with the skaters.

One parent complained that the officers just drive around the perimeter, but do not get out of the cruiser. When they do get out, they take the wrong approach with the skaters.

"They come in, acting all tough and mean, but they need to just relax and cool down sometimes," said one resident.

A teenage skater said he and his brother were skating when his brother yelled something at him.

"The officer pushed him over to the cruiser and patted him down, all for yelling," the skater explained. "Hello, freedom of speech."

Conrad said she had planned to have a member of the Grove City Division of Police at the meeting to address some of the issues, but admitted that she forgot to contact them.

"There is a perception of skaters that is not necessarily true," said Conrad. "They have a negative stereotype, but hopefully we can change that."

Parents suggested that the city put a fence around the park and lock it up at night or close the park for a while if the trouble does not decline. The teens said if the city were to close the park, they would just skate on the streets and get in more trouble with the police.

Parents encouraged other parents to come to the park and "police" activities. The patrons of the park are also encouraged to report problems to the police, though adults say it is unlikely that kids are "going to tell on other kids."

Another issue at the Skate Park is litter. There are three trash receptacles at the park but patrons said the city should add two more. Some of the trash cans have been turned into an obstacle that skaters use to jump or do tricks on. One resident said the city should consider putting in a cigarette receptacle.

The park is supposed to be smoke-free, but residents say people still smoke. They throw cigarette butts on the ground and stuff them into the skate bowl drains. Conrad said city staff would clean the drains out, but asked skaters to put in some effort too.

"We need diligence from all of you," she said. "We all want this to be a wonderful park."

Conrad said the city is planning to add a water fountain later this year and they are considering adding rest rooms. Currently, there is a portable toilet, but it is reportedly in bad shape.

City leaders say to call the police department to report trouble at 277-1710 and call parks and recreation, 277-3050, with other concerns.

Fund raising and skate contest

Skaters said they want a bigger street section at the park and a new ramp.

"A mini ramp would be awesome," said one skater.

Conrad explained that the city spent approximately $350,000 on concrete for the park. In addition, they spent $200,000 on site improvements.

"We will certainly take a mini ramp into consideration and look into the cost," said Conrad. "The city might be more likely to listen if the skaters got involved in raising some of the funds."

Friends of the Skate Park would like to put on a skate contest that would bring in skaters from all over the state, even surrounding states.

The group would like to hold the contest in the fall. Skaters said they don’t care when it is; they just want it to happen.

The group will try to form a panel of judges who have experience with skateboarding and inline skating. The competition would separate street skating and bowl skating and have beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert levels.

There would be an entry fee and prizes for the winners.

For those interested in judging, organizing or donating, contact Friends of the Skate Park member Nikki Jason at nikkijason@hotmail.com or 336-4481.

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