By Jeanne Starmack
Residents asked Struthers City Council to reconsider closing the city’s skate park, saying many in the community helped build it six years ago so kids would be safe.
The council voted unanimously to permanently close the park May 16.
People who live near the skate park, which is at Elm and Stewart streets, have been complaining for several years about noise, litter, profanity and other misconduct there.
Councilwoman Carol Crytzer, chairwoman of the parks and recreation committee, told council in May that a company offered to move the skate park, which consists of a concrete pad and ramps, for free to Mauthe Park.
But residents near Mauthe Park objected to having it there, and there was no other suitable place to put it, council decided.
Council’s meeting room Wednesday was crowded with residents whose kids use the skate park and who remember the effort behind building it in 2006.
Residents and businesses donated $70,000 toward it, and the Struthers Fraternal Order of Police spent $3,000 on two city lots for it, selling them to the city for $1.
More than 100 residents helped build it under the direction of KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization that helps communities build playgrounds.
It was built, said Dan Becker, owner of Becker Funeral Home, so that kids wouldn’t use their skateboards in the streets.
“Drive around town now and they’re on the streets because there’s nowhere else to go,” he told the council Wednesday.
“You have to come up with an answer to supervise the park,” he continued. “Put it back into operation, and make it work.”
Others spoke of the need for supervision at the park.
“I’m willing to donate my time,” said Poland Avenue resident Daniel Sinclair. I will volunteer two to three times a week to keep this open for these kids,” he said.
Jeff Pantall, a recently retired Struthers police detective, said he kept close contact on the park.
“I was aware of the cussing and went there,” he said. “The police need people’s help,” he said. “If you see something going on, you have to call the police. Seconds count with us.”
“By shutting this park down, you’re telling the whole city you don’t think the police can manage a skate board park,” he continued. “I feel we can do it. This was a huge investment by a lot of people.”
Sexton Street resident John Cutlip said he believes the park should be a private business. He is proposing an indoor park, and he has a website set up to take donations for it. He said he’s estimated $60,000 would be needed. The site is saveourskatepark.com.
He told the Vindicator that if his fund drive doesn’t meet its goal, he’ll refund the money from a PayPal account.
Trinity Toporcer, 9, her brother Trevor, 9, and Harley Fussnecker, 9, asked council to reopen the park.
Trevor and Trinity’s mother, Tina Toporcer, said she created a Facebook page where 93 people ‘liked’ reopening it.
But Steve Morgan, a Stewart Street resident, said that if people want the park opened, they should volunteer to have it in their neighborhood.
“Where were these parents when they ripped the gate off the fence, or urinated behind the ramps,” he said. “If you think we’re a bunch of whiners on northern Stewart, put it in front of someone else’s house.”
Councilman Mike Patrick told council at a caucus meeting before Wednesday’s regular meeting that he favors reopening the park and having a public hearing on what to do about it.
Crytzer said previously that there never was a public meeting, vote or ordinance to build the park so there was reason to have a vote on the floor of a regular council meeting about closing it.
Patrick discovered, however, that there was a public meeting in October 2005 about opening the park, and he said there should be a public meeting about closing it.
He said he did not know about the 2005 meeting before he voted May 16 to close the park.
He said council will consider the public’s comments at the next opportunity.
There is a parks and recreation committee meeting tentatively set for 6 p.m. Wednesday.