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Skateboarders pose unique puzzle

Both the Cabot School District and the Cabot Parks and Recreation Commission have found a dilemma in the popular Skateboard Park. The park is on the Community Center grounds, across from the high school and near Junior High North, and is in nearly constant use; but has it become an attraction for truancy?

City and school officials are meeting this week to find a solution.

Parks and Recreation commissioners at their March 14 meeting were questioned by skateboarders who had been asked by police to leave the Skateboard Park during what are usual operating hours. Told by the parks and rec staff that the park was closed at the request of the school district, Braden Reschel and Micheal Williams came to the commission meeting to ask for the decision to be reconsidered.

Each explained that they do not attend high school, and work or go to school in the evenings, leaving them only the day to pursue their enjoyment of skateboarding. Reshel suggested using a check-in system where the community center staff could issue a pass once it is shown someone is not a student avoiding school. Police could then simply ensure park users have the pass.

Preventing the use of the park by skateboarders because some students skip school is not effective, Reshel said. “Those are the ones who just come over to hang out, and they are not skating any way,” he said.

“We came here to see today if there is something better we can do to get a compromise instead of having the park closed down for everybody,” Reschel said.

Parks and Recreation Commission chairman Maggie Cope said the reasoning is sound, and the suggestion is reasonable. The park was closed to stop a problem, and give time to find a solution, she said.

For the next week, there would be no problem because of spring break, Cope said. Hopefully, by the time school resumes there would be a better solution in place, she said.

In another perspective, school district officials are facing increasing damage at the newly opened Fine Arts Center and complaints of truancy as well as the possibility of injuries because of skateboards.

During the March 12 school board meeting, superintendent Tony Thurman said the situation with skateboards has become worse, “And we have gone through our down time, the last three months.”

“We are moving into our worst season now. It stays light later and it is warm outside,” he remarked.

Thurman said he has asked that the police department begin writing tickets. “Because if you run off a group … 30 minutes later they are right back … We run them off constantly,” he said.

And, there is mounting damage, Thurman said. “Panther Wall has cracks in the concrete where they run the skateboards along it. It chips off the ends of the bricks … In the amphitheater, you can see where the edges of the concrete is all chipped up,” he said.

“The skate park is next door, but they would rather use our tennis courts and bricks,” Thurman said.

In response to a query on Tuesday, Thurman said the district asked for the skate park be closed when school was in session. This because there were large gatherings of teenagers and young adults at the park during school on an almost daily basis. The numbers have decreased during the cold weather, “But we anticipate the numbers increasing again since the weather will be improving soon,” he wrote in his response

“The proximity of the skate park to our two largest campuses brought a lot of attention to the fact that many of those at the park should probably be in school,” Thurman explained.

School and city officials are meeting Wednesday to discuss the park and available options, Thurman said. “We will certainly support the decision of the city in regard to the skate park,” he wrote.

While damage is occurring to the brick and concrete ledges around the campuses is a problem, the greatest concern is safety. “We are also extremely concerned at the probability of someone getting severely hurt since these areas are not designed for the purpose they are being used by the skateboarders,” he wrote.

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