Salem will discuss skateboard park idea

SALEM – City Councilman Rick Drummond said he will host a meeting later this month to discuss ideas for a community-driven skateboard park.

He made it clear, though, that a project would need to be self-funded and self-maintained by the users.

The skateboard park topic came up at a recent city council meeting when a woman questioned what kids can do in Salem and asked about a skateboard park. The parks committee of city council, led by Drummond, discussed the topic Thursday night.

If a group of people came forward and members of the community worked together for a skateboard park they would take care of themselves, he said he didn’t think the city would have a problem with that.

Anyone interested in stepping forward can contact Drummond at his council-dedicated number at 330-277-5668. He said he’ll schedule the meeting for the end of June.

The city had a skateboard park area at one time at Waterworth Memorial Park, but it only lasted about 10 months, according to Parks Director Steve Faber.

“The short story is it became a nuisance,” he said.

The skateboarding area had been located near homes near the playground and the duck pond. He estimated the police department received 73 calls to the skateboard park in 56 days. He said there were issues with the neighborhood and noted it was built more like a competitive type of skateboarding park, which was different than what the kids were used to on the streets. There was also an issue with bicycles vs. skateboards.

When asked by committee member Councilman Jeff Cushman what the parks position would be in regard to a skateboard park, Faber deferred to the city Parks Commission, saying he can’t speak for them, but he thought they would listen. When asked by Drummond if he would consider having another one in the previous location, Faber said “absolutely not.”

Faber suggested putting it “right around here,” referring to city hall.

Drummond said for the idea of a skateboard park to move forward, they would need residents to work together and those wanting the park to become involved. He said the most successful parks are the ones controlled and maintained by the users.

Councilman Clyde Brown, who attended the meeting but isn’t on the committee, talked about a previous effort by a resident to resurrect a skateboard park and the time and commitment put into it. He said there are skateboard parks in a lot of places and they all have one policy: take care of it or lose it.

“These kids need something,” he said. “You want to keep them in Salem? Give them something to do.”

He said they owed it to the kids to give it some consideration.

City resident Scott Cahill said he agreed with Brown and has talked with some of the young men who paint on the graffiti wall and do skateboarding and hears frustration from them. He said they felt like the skateboard park was given to them and then taken away because of what a few did. He said he would do anything he can do to assist.

In a matter pertaining to the graffiti wall at Waterworth Memorial Park, Drummond said he’ll be happy to facilitate a community meeting regarding finding more opportunities for street artists to use their talents.

Drummond said an issue was raised concerning the size of the graffiti wall at the park, with questions about whether it can be expanded or even have one put in another one of the parks to give the artists more space to display their work.

Faber said it could be expanded and that’s something the parks personnel had discussed but had not had the time to do. He said the parks commission wasn’t approached about it when it was put up – it was done internally using material donated by Councilman Brian Whitehill.

Councilman Jeff Cushman, a member of the committee, said he was disappointed the wall was tucked away behind the maintenance building, but was impressed with the quality of the artwork. He asked if it had been considered to put one at Centennial and offered to donate material to expand the one at Waterworth.

Faber said the location makes a difference, explaining it was near the maintenance building so there could be some supervision. He said they could double the size to start, but said it should be brought before the Parks Commission.

City resident Lisa Cahill said she was happy they were considering the topic and talking about doubling the size, but said the location is a bit of an issue, saying the street artists would like their work to be seen.

She suggested maybe working with building owners along the alleys downtown where material could be mounted and the artists could create some artwork in the alleys and “make it almost an alley gallery.”

Drummond said that could be another community-driven project. He said he’ll be happy to set up the meeting regarding street art if there’s interest, also later this month.