Parks and Wreck

Brunswick is gonna teach those skater kids a lesson.

Brunswick’s Parks and Recreations department has shut down the city’s skate park for a weeklong trial period. Parks officials claim they’re trying to teach disrespectful young hooligans a lesson. The closing came after a series of complaints about littering, smoking, vandalism, drug use, public sex, and fights. If shuttering it for the first week of summer doesn’t eliminate the problems, they say, Brunswick will close the outdoor facility for good.

But the park’s designers say the city set the park up to fail.

“The seeds were sewn in the design of this facility,” says Vince Frantz, of Lakewood, who helped the city establish the park. “They did not fully support skateboarding or biking.”

In 2005, the city needed to hastily construct a skate park before the election cycle started. Brunswick had no idea how to establish a skate facility, and recruited Public Square Group, a non-profit group dedicated to integrating skating into the public space.

Public Square Group Executive Director Frantz, a 35-year-old longtime skater, says the city was prepared to spend $80,000 on a project that should have cost four to five times that much.

At first, the park was located next to city hall, by the police department. After a year, Southwest General Hospital made a bid for the land. The park was moved near the Brunswick Community Recreation and Fitness Center, where it’s attracted a hang-out scene that scares off patrons.

An ideal park would have had new, sturdy ramps set up on a concrete deck. Once the park moved, not only did the city have less space for fewer aging ramps, but it set them up on an asphalt base. Then the city designated the ramps for use by skaters and bikers — which is roughly the equivalent of having football and soccer teams share a field that never gets new turf. As Frantz warned, the park has not aged well.

“Since they’re not [maintaining and replacing the facilities], it leaves less and less ramps for people to skate, and more and more space for people to come and hang out,” explains Frantz. “When you visit a real skate park, there are issues, but not like this. There’s not fights, there’s not graffiti. There’s many, many adults and kids skating all the time. Self policing works when you have a wider range of people using it. When you have a bunch of 16-year-olds in an area, it begets more 16 year olds.”

The cash-strapped city says it can’t afford a full-time monitor to keep the sk8rs in line. Police have claimed they don’t have time to monitor the park. Lakewood and Cuyahoga Falls have similar parks with no custodians (most public skate parks don’t have any monitors). Brunswick Parks & Recreation Director John Piepsny didn’t return Scene’s call or e-mail by deadline.

By now, most of the serious skaters have moved on to grayer plains.

“A lot of what’s being attributed to skateboarding is actually teenagers [who don’t skate],” says Frantz. “If they want to skateboard, they’re off somewhere that’s safe and clean and fun — which might be behind a building.” — D.X. Ferris

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