VERMILION — City officials who quickly closed the skateboard park after a rash of vandalism have decided to reopen the recreational area under one condition: The park’s patrons have to take care of it.
“You need to be more responsible for what we put out there,” Dan Squires, city service director, told a group of skaters Friday afternoon. “My message to you is this — learn to police yourselves or help the police solve the problems that are out there.”
With that, Squires told the dozen or so skateboarders and bikers who gathered for the informal meeting that their park will reopen at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The meeting, held inside the new city youth center, overlooked the shuttered park.
“I’ve always been given chances in life. I believe in giving at least one chance to everyone, and this is yours,” he said.
Squires and Safety Director Carl Schmidt decided May 5 to close the park after vandalism moved beyond graffiti.
The surfaces on a couple of the ramps were torn off, park benches that were pinned to the asphalt were removed and the pin was thrown at the city’s service center. The park’s trash can was repeatedly emptied.
Schmidt said the city will try to put together an ordinance making park vandalism punishable by a $500 fine and revocation of park privileges.
“I don’t want to shut it down again, so please don’t make me the bad guy,” Schmidt told the skaters.
While many of the skaters said nothing as city administrators issued their challenge, at least some vowed to do what they can to prevent future acts deemed disrespectful to the park.
“Getting the lock off the gate for good is my main concern,” said 26-year-old Jarrett Ward. “I come to the park as much as possible. To stay out of trouble, I ride a bike. That’s my way of releasing stress.”
It was disheartening to learn the park he rallied so hard for four years ago was closed and chained, said 25-year-old Jerrod Dewey.
“We didn’t beg for two years to get the park opened just to see it closed because of this,” Dewey said. “I’m definitely willing to do what I can to prevent it from happening again.”
Dewey said the original youth group that lobbied for the park still has about $1,600 in an account that they are willing to donate to the park. It can be used to purchase Internet-accessible surveillance cameras or the lighting Squires said the park needs.
“Anything — as long as the money goes to the park and the park stays open,” Dewey said.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.