New obstacle for skatepark
Published 4:12 pm, Wednesday, June 14, 2017
NEW MILFORD — Tristan Cornelis and his friends used to skateboard nearly every day at the Young’s Field skatepark.
But the town closed the skatepark June 1 over liability concerns, triggered largely by modifications skaters had made over the last two years, including the addition of concrete ramps and quarter-pipes. The park will remain closed until it is fixed, Mayor David Gronbach said.
“I think their intentions are good,” he said. “But this is a public piece of property. You can’t just start making alterations to it.”
But that befuddles the skaters, who said no one ever objected as the modifications were being made.
“The town did nothing for two years,” said Cornelis, 23, a Western Connecticut State University graduate. “Guys were out here carrying concrete, mixing it in Home Depot buckets in broad daylight, cops walking by. Nobody cared.”
“The town even came down to paint over graffiti. Still nothing,” said skater John Silk, 22, of Sherman.
Cornelis, unable to
persuade town officials to reopen the park, started brainstorming. He called on a Bridgeport-based skate-park builder, Dave Peterson, who agreed to fix the enclosure on the cheap and bring it up to code.
On Sunday, Cornelis, set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the project.
“After a few years, hundreds of dollars in concrete, and countless hours of labor, we were finally starting to see our hard work pay off,” Cornelis wrote on the page. “ Last week, the town locked up our skate park due to excessive ‘vandalism.’ They plan to destroy all of our hard work.”
By Friday morning, the page had raised more than $5,000. The average donation was $65.
“My kids love the skate park,” wrote one young mother who donated. “Everyone is always super respectful and even supportive when my little guys are practicing.”
“Never been here, but this is for all the homies out there!” wrote a young man.
“If you build it, they will come,” wrote yet another.
Silk said the park means more to skaters than the town might appreciate, and those skaters are willing to pay to keep the park open.
But Gronbach said it’s not as easy as unlocking the gate and letting Peterson get to work.
There’s “a bit of a process,” he said, including a professional assessment of the park as it stands and obtaining approval of the parks director and parks commission.
“It has got to be done professionally,” he said. “They had good intentions, but it’s town property, you have to work with the town.”
Silk, who has skated at Young’s Field since the park opened in 2007, said this month marks the first time it has been closed for more than a day.
Cornelis said he hopes to get the park reopened as soon as possible. He plans to ask the Parks and Recreation Commission at its June 19 meeting to let Peterson and skaters get to work.
“If I could, I’d be at the park every day,” he said. “We’re just hoping to be able to skate the place by the end of summer.”
Gronbach said, for insurance purposes, the town would have to file a police report, since the alterations technically constitute vandalism.
“But as long as everybody cooperates, we’re not looking to press criminal charges,” he said.
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