Taking back the park
Skateboarding and graffiti; since the sport became popularized in the late 1980s, stretching from California across the U.S., there has been a common link between the two. But enter the Jaycee Skate Park in Brainerd and there is little that’s positive.
“We have heard from other skate parks around the state and even out in California that graffiti is part of the skateboarding culture, which is fine,” said Brainerd Parks and Recreation Director Tony Sailer. “But what is written at Jaycees isn’t just dirty, it’s flat out vulgar.
“We go out and paint over it and it’s back on there immediately. It’s getting to be ridiculous.”
Built in 2004 to offer skateboarders a safe haven from riding down the streets and a place for youth in the community to hang out, the promising aspects of the skate park are now overshadowed by the amount of vandalism visible from nearly every angle.
Spray paint that wraps the cement pad and extends at times to the dugout of the park’s baseball field, Troy Harris, Brainerd Parks and Recreation’s maintenance foreman said the vandalism hasn’t been limited to just to the skate park.
“We have a nice brick building at Jaycee Park and we just had to spend roughly $1,000 to sandblast and repaint that because, for the third time, it’s been graffitied,” Harris said. “It just seems to be a constant problem.”
Not the only constant problem at the skate park, Sailer said damage to both park and skate park equipment is consistent along with excessive damage to the park’s bathrooms.
“Within the first month of the (skate) park opening, a number of signs and cutouts were all gone,” said Sailer, who noted that a $100,000 grant for equipment was donated by KaBOOM! when the skate park first opened. “The box that kids grind on has disappeared and a lot of the equipment is damaged in one way or another.
“And then at our parks we open up all of the restrooms in the spring, starting in the mornings and then they get locked up at night and every spring people using that skate park go in to the restrooms and destroy it. Toilets and sinks are busted when the kids swing at them with their skateboards and what not and eventually we end up having to lock the doors to the restrooms for the entire day because we can’t afford to keep replacing those things.”
Sailer said the blatant disrespect for cost to the city park is baffling.
“One time I had a kid, probably 17 or 18, come up to me at the skate park and ask why the restrooms were locked and I said, ‘because you people are destroying the sinks and toilets and it costs a lot of money to replace them,’” Sailer said. “And he looked at me, dead seriously and said, ‘oh that costs money?’
“I was flabbergasted.”
Sailer estimates that between the paint, man hours and replacement of fixtures, thousands of dollars has been put in to repairing damages at Jaycee Park and Harris adds that, “it is by far the most vandalized park” of the 14 in Brainerd. And Sailer, along with the parks and recreation said he is at a loss with what to do.
“The skate park is becoming such an issue that we have to figure out what we’re going to do with it,” said Sailer. “So I brought it up at the Feb. 27 (Brainerd) Parks and Recreation Board meeting, listing the vandalism and damage expenses and basically said we only have a couple options for this park.”
The first option Sailer said would be to shut the skate park down entirely and “move on” from it. The second option being considered would be to move the skate park in to a different Brainerd park. Sailer said by doing that, he hopes to eliminate some of the problems, having it more out in the open than Jaycees Park currently offers.
“The main reason the skate park was put in at Jaycees in the first place was because there was a cement pad already put in place there and that was part of the reason KaBOOM! gave us the grant money for equipment,” Sailer said, adding that the Brainerd police do a great job at patrolling the park. “But really Jaycee might have been the worst place we could have put it because it is so incredibly secluded, surrounded by a brushy swamp and leaving basically only one way in, so by the time cops do arrive, the kids have time to scatter.
“So we talked about possibly moving it to Memorial Park, where it’s wide open and visible and maybe that would eliminate some of the problems. Crosby has a skate park across from the police station — they don’t have any of the issues we’re dealing with.”
Sailer said that moving the skate park would add more costs in placing a cement pad down and Harris said his concern for a move would be that it simply “is moving vandalism to another park.”
And while the skate park isn’t being damaged by every person using it, Sailer said it’s those few people that can ruin it for everybody.
“Really right now these kids are forcing us to do something we don’t want to do,” he said. “But it’s crossed a line and now they’re going to have to pay the fiddler and if they want a skate park, they’re going to have to begin policing themselves instead of forcing the hand.
“It’s too bad because it really is probably only a few bad eggs, but those bad eggs are costing us a lot of money and we just can’t keep doing it.”
The fate of the skate park will be discussed at a future Brainerd Parks and Recreation Board meeting and Sailer said the parks and rec department is willing to hear other possible solutions for eliminating the vandalism.
JESSI PIERCE may be reached at 855-5859 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/jessi_pierce (@jessi_pierce).