Thursday, August 22, 2013
Vandalism has forced the temporary closure a popular skate board park in Hutchinson.
"We won't open it up until it's safe, until we get the structure back in the condition it needs to be in," said Craig Morrison, Assistant Parks and Facilities Director.
While vandalism has been a problem at the park for some time, it hit a new level this week, Morrison said. Vandals tore apart the skate ramps exposing sharp, dangerous edges. That's caused a public safety concern.
Plastic covers have been removed from the top of the gate that surrounds the facility and a plaque, which recognizes donors who helped fund the park, has disappeared. There's also an area on one of the ramps that has begun to rust from people urinating in the area.
In response, Morrison says, the decision was made to temporarily close the park so crews could clean the mess. On Wednesday, city crews spent hours cleaning graffiti off of the ramps and clearing piles of trash.
"We cleaned eight, five-gallon buckets of glass, debris, and concrete chunks," Morrison said.
This is only the second time the city has closed the park. The park was closed several years ago for a short time while the city did some routine maintenance.
Morrison says he hopes the closure sends a message.
"(The park) is here to use but it's here to use properly,"
He says the majority of the people who use the park, use it responsibly. He says it's likely just a couple of bad apples have spoiled the fun for everyone. He thinks the vandalism is happening in the late evening or early morning. He does not know who is doing the damage.
While he doesn't skate board, Morrison is especially frustrated by the temporary closure of the park. He has an office right across the street and was one of the people who were involved with getting the park built in 2004.
"It's kind of personal to me," Morrison said.
It's also personal to the many skaters who use the park every day. About 10 of those skaters staged a small "protest" Thursday at the Reno County Courthouse to rally against the park closing. A couple of them had signs that said they don't want to lose access to the park just because a couple "bad people" had vandalized it.
"Some people will just go in there and wreck everything and it's horrible to us," said Wyatt Jones, 14. "Without the skate park, there would be nothing for us. All the skaters here, we love the skate park."
Many people in town say they don't like to see the skate park close either, but they do understand where the city is coming from.
"We've seen a lot of the graffiti and a lot of the damage that's been done to it and I can't blame the city for wanting to shut it down for the time being," said Stoney Wilson whose 7-year-old son goes to the park multiple times a week.
Morrison says the hope is the city can reopen the park in two to three weeks.
"The intent is to get it in safe working order," Morrison said.