Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Skate park closure gets attention of teens, parents

Cleanup day Saturday from 3-5 p.m.

Express Staff Writer

A 24-hour closure of the Hailey skate park last week led some skaters and parents to share ideas at a City Council meeting Monday on how to reduce vandalism and bullying at the popular site.

Some of these concerned citizens will meet the mayor for a casual talk on the topic during a skate park cleanup day Saturday, April 21, from 3-5 p.m. The public is asked to bring rakes and work gloves to help clean up the park for summer.

The park was closed from Thursday at 8 p.m. to Friday at 8 p.m, by Mayor Fritz Haemmerle, after trash was dumped there and a sign was removed Wednesday night. Haemmerle called trashing the park an "egregious" transgression.

The vandalism followed a visit the day before by the mayor to show skaters photographs of garbage that had accumulated around the park and inform them about their duty to keep the park clean. Last Monday, Haemmerle announced that the park could soon be closed after metal sculptures at the park were found vandalized.

It took four years and $500,000 to build the original Hailey Skate Park, at the southern entrance to the city. The full-radius pipe at the park is described by Thrasher magazine as "the first of its kind to be built in over 25 years west of the Mississippi."

In 2003, world champion Tony Hawk brought skaters Bam Margera, Shaun White, Alex Chalmers and Ryan Sheckler to the park to skate its "baby-smooth, concrete tall walls and a kooky layout," Thrasher reported.

In summer 2009, skaters almost lost access to the park when bullying and vandalism caused the City Council to threaten its closure. After cracking down on two miscreants and calling for more parental supervision at the park, the atmosphere changed. City voters raised taxes a year later to expand the park, making more terrain for beginners.


But vandalism last week resulted in the park's first actual closure.

"I will continue to close the park if this continues," Haemmerle said Monday. He said parents had told him they were afraid to leave their kids at the park because of the threat of bullying.

"We can't have intimidation," he said.

Mark Spencer and his son Elk, a fourth-grade skater from Hailey, showed up Monday night in response to the closing, offering the mayor and council some ideas for dealing with the trash.

Elk Spencer said kids who hang around at the park but do not skate are the true culprits, leaving trash on the ground and turning the place into a "junkyard."

Mark Spencer told the mayor that the park was unfortunately commissioned without a management plan and that relying on kids to manage it themselves was not realistic.

"Supervision is the No. 1 thing," he said.

Spencer advised establishing a subcommittee within the city government to oversee the park.

He said a similar effort has been undertaken at the skate park in Ketchum, where the Ketchum Parks Department holds competitions and is familiar with the kids who use the park.

Spencer also advised the mayor that the public art at the Hailey skate park should perhaps be moved elsewhere, as most skate parks are designed to be "bombproof."

Haemmerle thanked the Spencers for their ideas and said he looked forward to gathering more information at the cleanup day Saturday.

"I'll be there working, too," he said.

Tony Evans:

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