Soldotna closes skate park

Drug rumors, vandalism lead council to shut down recreation area

Posted: Friday, September 30, 2005

City officials threw up their hands in bewilderment over continuing vandalism and reports of drug abuse at the Soldotna skateboard park, and ordered the attraction closed.

“We have spoken for a number of months on the vandalism at the skateboard park and the drug use there,” said Mayor Dave Carey.

“We can’t supervise (the park) due to its location, and I propose we close it until spring,” he said.

On a motion by council member Jane Stein, the city council on Wednesday unanimously approved closing the park at least until spring.

Stein said the council worked for a number of years on the project and finally got the skateboard park built at an approximate cost of $80,000, but said she cannot take care of the park herself.

“I’ve gone there many times and picked up cigarette butts and trash,” Stein said. “I can’t keep doing it.

“You have got to take care of it yourself,” she said, addressing her comment toward a couple dozen high school civics class students in attendance at the council meeting.

Stein said she “got sick and tired” of cleaning cigarette butts and of the burned down toilets at the park.

“I throw up my hands,” she said.

Carey said he had spoken to skateboarders in front of city hall, who told him, after awhile, the half pipes and other stunt ramps at the park became boring.

They also told Carey older kids show up at the park and beat up younger kids so the older ones can use the park when they want.

Acting City Manager Andrew Carmichael told the council the city has received a security camera intended for use to monitor activity at the skateboard park, but said work to make the camera “idiot-proof,” or vandal resistant, might mean it would not be installed until spring.

Once installed, the camera would allow for sweeping pans of the area and zoom-in closeup views of individuals who might be misbehaving and would provide direct viewing at the police station and Soldotna Sports Center, Carmichael said.

Soldotna Police Sgt. Tod McGillivray told the council that closing the park would reduce the police department’s workload “tremendously.”

“The last couple months it’s been hideous out there,” McGillivray said.

Council member Lisa Parker, who addressed the council telephonically on Wednesday, said, “The kids don’t take ownership of what we do (for them.)”

Council member Sharon Moock, who also is principal of Soldotna Middle School, said, “By far, the majority of our young people are not doing these things ... not drinking at the skateboard park.”

Moock also said younger students at her school tell her the skateboard park is “a bad place,” and they do not go there.

“A 12-year-old student told me, ‘You gotta move it,’” she said.

Moock said the student suggested the skateboard park be moved to where it is out in the open, in plain view of passers-by.

“I think we need a committee to look at where to move it rather than open it in the same location,” Moock said.

One suggestion was that the skateboard park be moved to the parking area adjacent to the police station.

No decision was made, other than to close the park for now.

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