It was with great sadness and reluctance that I locked the door on the Soldotna skate park after the Soldotna City Council unanimously ordered it be closed. As I did so, I thought about the joy and sense of accomplishment we all felt when student Mike Sturm, Elks’ President Dave Caswell and I cut the ribbon opening the facility two years ago.
The city initially placed $80,000 into the facility, along with $60,000 from the Soldotna Elks to buy the equipment. Since that opening, more thousands of city tax dollars have been spent cleaning up vandalism, trash, replacing the incinerated outhouse, mending the fence repeatedly, placing surveillance cameras, which have been destroyed and policing the area.
We have unfortunately created an isolated location for abuse of property and person. The park has become an area for undisciplined young people to vent themselves on others and for young adults to prey on children by offering them drugs and cigarettes for sale. This cannot continue, and the city cannot continue to pay insurance for an unhealthy environment.
At the same time, the ski slope recreational area will continue to be available. It is my hope that next spring, after working with parents, commercial interests and young adults, we can reopen a skate park within Soldotna. An appropriate location with supervision must be determined.
All of us are aware that most young people have enjoyed appropriate use of the skate park. Almost all children are good when you meet with them one-on-one. However, in groups and among undisciplined peers, misbehavior and unlawful actions have been occurring.
It is my hope that by closing the park at this time, we are sending a clear message that we support accountability and respect for city and community property.
Mayor Dave Carey
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