2007-09-06 / Front Page

Skate park behind the schools may close because of weekend vandalism

By Adrienne Downing

Recreation Director Bill Piva, at left, Barbara Szepatowski, center, and Ron Parfitt assess the damage from the Labor Day weekend vandalism at the Jamestown skate park. Photo by Adrienne Downing Recreation Director Bill Piva, at left, Barbara Szepatowski, center, and Ron Parfitt assess the damage from the Labor Day weekend vandalism at the Jamestown skate park. Photo by Adrienne Downing Just two weeks after the successful SkateFest 2007, the Jamestown Recreation Department is now faced with the decision of whether or not to close the island's skate park after vandals damaged

some time over the Labor Day weekend.

Recreation director Bill Piva was conducting a routine inspection of the area on Tuesday morning when he discovered the damage.

"I usually do inspections of the ball fields and the skate park twice a week. I had spoken to Lew Kitts (school director of buildings and grounds) on Friday and I told him I would go out on Tuesday and make sure everything was ready for school to start on Wednesday," he said.

The park is subject to inspections by the Rhode Island Interlocal Trust, the entity that insures the Town of Jamestown and therefore the skate park.

"The last time the trust did an inspection they found everything in order except a small problem with the fence, which we fixed, and that we did not have enough signs up," Piva said. "We ordered and placed about $300 worth of signs right before the SkateFest and now they are covered in spray paint."

Along with the painted signs, there was graffiti spray painted on the bowl itself and a makeshift ramp built on the basketball court. The ramp was made of an old ta- ble, rocks, and wood that had nails sticking out of it.

"Skateboarding on the basketball court is ruining the court itself, and to build something on it is just something we can't have," Piva said.

Also along to survey the damage were Kitts and town councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski.

Kitts said the damage was bad, but the worst part was what most people do not see.

"I have caught people skateboarding on the roof of the school, and we have had to clean up urine in the doorways at the school in the morning before we can even open the school," he said.

Parks and recreation maintenance supervisor Ron Parfitt said he and his crew spend every Monday morning cleaning up the area.

"We will come out here and there will be trash all around the trash can, but not in it," he said. "And there is a boulder that keeps getting moved onto the basketball court. We finally had to get someone to move it to Ft. Getty with a backhoe to keep it off of there."

Parfitt also notes how the tennis courts have been abused in the same manner.

"We have locked the gates to the courts to keep the boarders off because it messes up the surface, which was redone, but they peeled back the fence and ruined the fence to get in there," he said.

This most recent round of vandalism is particularly distressing to all of them because of the success of the SkateFest.

"We really thought we got the message out there to the kids about taking care of this place because of the insurance issues. We advised them of the rules and thought that would take care of it," Piva said.

Although he does not have an idea who the culprits were, he does point out that he hopes, and thinks, that the damage was done from skaters who are from off the island.

"Unfortunately that doesn't change the outcome. We really need to encourage the local kids to report what they see going on. If they allow this to go on in their park, it is adding to the problem. The have to make the change," he said. "They can call the recreation department or the police and give a report anonymously if they want."

Piva acknowledged that he had a plan in place to shut down the park, and said the reality of the situation is that it may be the only option.

"Basically the option is to shut it down, and when and if we open it again we will have to pay staff to monitor it, which will mean it will only be open certain hours," Piva said.

The first step to keep the park open is to install security cameras and increase police patrols in the area.

"The Jamestown police do monitor the area, but unfortunately they aren't, and shouldn't be expected to be, here 24 hours a day," Piva said.

The park is closed during school hours and users must wear helmets. Reporting those who violate these rules is a start to controlling the area, Piva said.

"Older skaters, especially those from off-island, have been known to monopolize the skate park and island teens, little kids and those that take care of the park are not getting equal time," Piva said. "All of this is a misuse of the facilities that we can't have."

Anyone who has information about the vandalism or who may witness future misuse of the park can make an anonymous report by calling the Jamestown Police at 423-1212 or the recreation department at 423-7260.

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