Starting to look more like the fortified entrance to a Marine barracks in Beirut than the entrance to a youth recreation attraction, the Soldotna skateboard park remains closed as city officials ponder solutions to the problem-plagued park.
About a dozen concerned citizens addressed the Soldotna City Council during a public hearing Wednesday night, expressing their support of the park and offering suggestions for putting an end to problems ranging from graffiti painting to drug dealing.
City officials ordered the park closed last September due to continuing vandalism and reports of drug abuse at the popular attraction.
Mayor Dave Carey said at the time, the city could not supervise the park due to its location, and suggested it be closed until spring.
Carey opened the hearing Wednesday by saying since the skateboard park opened three years ago, the city has had to deal with “vandalism, burning and drugs being sold there.”
He said the park had again been vandalized Tuesday night with profanity of a sexual nature directed toward the council being spray painted on barricades the city erected across the entrance ramp to the park.
A number of people testifying during the hearing said the park should be reopened, but in a more conspicuous location.
The skateboard park, which is near the intersection of Karen Street and East Marydale Avenue, is not in a good location, according to Tammy Farrell, of Soldotna.
“I would not let my little girls go there,” Farrell said.
“I don’t see why you can’t just pick it up and move it,” she said. “My recommendation is you should move it right in front of the police station.”
Ray VinZant suggested putting the skateboard park in the city park across the Sterling Highway from Thompson’s Log Gift Shop.
“I saw ‘em right on the main boulevard in California; they work,” VinZant said.
He also said “all the businesses in town” have put up signs saying, “No skateboarding.”
“The kids have no place to play,” he said.
Eric Fischer agreed that the skate park needs to be moved.
“I think the city put it there ‘cause they didn’t want the kids in town,” he said.
Fischer also said, “The cops have not patrolled it like they should.”
Greg Evans said he never felt he was in danger at the skateboard park, but added that more police attention should be directed there.
“The kids out there aren’t hostile,” Evans said.
One parent, Tammie Schuh, said when she takes her children to the park, she often takes treats and soft drinks and asks the kids in the park to help pick up litter.
“If they do, I give ‘em the stuff I bring,” she said.
She also said having the park “back in the woods” is not a good location.
Schuh said she saw police “quite often” while she was at the park.
Sharon Jackson also said she and her four children “pick up a lot of trash” at the skate park.
However, she said she has never felt threatened there.
“We go every day,” she said.
“Most of the kids there are there to ride ... and they’re good kids,” Jackson said.
Kaarlo Wik said, “The people that use this place love it. It’s the riffraff comin’ in that wreck it.”
Robin Sullens suggested creating a skateboard club.
“Give them some ownership. They’ll stand up ... and protect it,” Sullens said.
During the city council meeting that followed the public hearing, council member Sharon Moock said the city should not act too hastily.
If the city is to move the park, she said administrators should be careful not to move it and make other mistakes in selecting the new location.
City Manager Tom Boedeker said if the park is to be moved this year, it needs to go somewhere that already has pavement in place.
With construction projects already lining up, it would be difficult for the city to get a contractor to do the work this year, he said.
Mayor Carey said he was disappointed with suggestions aired at the public hearing.
“I was hoping some parents would assist the city and take some responsibility,” he said.
“What I heard was: ‘The city needs to do ... .’
“To say the police need to come by more often is an inadequate response,” Carey said.
He scheduled a work session for council members for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to hammer out a plan for the park.
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