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Skate park popularity increases tension

DARIN OLDE, Sierra Sun

With tension mounting from previous encounters, two Truckee residents called the Nevada Country Sheriff’s Office on Friday, June 30 after being threatened by a group of bikers illegally using the skateboarding park at the Truckee Donner Regional Park.

“This morning I asked them to leave and they immediately turned on me ‘who are you to tell us what to do,'” said Bert Wagener, a 35-year old Truckee resident who has been skateboarding at the park for the last year. Wagener said he tried to approach the bikers politely but the conversation turned sour quickly. “I’m a reasonible guy, and I tried to talk with them, but they wouldn’t listen. They wanted to start a fight with me. Fortunately, there was a lady there who called 9-1-1, and then when I left to call 9-1-1 they started harassing her – this 50 year old lady.”

Wagener said he has seen bikers at the park several times and at the skateboarding parks in Reno as well.

“Skate parks in the surrounding area get ruined by bikes, such as the Reno Skate Park in Idlewild, which is unusable now, and the Sun Valley Skate Park which is off of McCarren and 395,” said Wagener.

NCSO Lt. Dave Baxley said that patrollers have been keeping an eye on the park but couldn’t make contact on Friday because the group of bikers were gone by the time patrollers arrived.

City of Reno Park Planning Manager Ed Schenk said that Idlewild Skateboarding Park, which is three years old, became an area of contention after bikers and skateboarders began colliding with one another. To keep different user groups at bay, and hoping to reach a cooperative solution, Schenk eventually organized a meeting between bikers, rollerbladers, and skateboarders to hedge new park policies.

“We ended up with an informal policy and set time limits where different users could use the park at different times. It worked for a few days, but never got off the ground,” said Schenk. The time limitations didn’t work because the regulations could not be enforced, said Schenk.

“Now they [the different groups] have worked it out among themselves – sharing the park,” said Schenk.

The problem with sharing the park with bikers, say skateboarders, is that bicycles ruin the skate park. Bikes are made of hardened steel and when they crash they smash the cement. Pegs on front and rear tires, and handlebars gouge the smooth sections and scrape large pieces out of the metal coping lining the park. Bikes are also larger and heavier, and pose significantly larger risks when collisions occur. Plus, bike tires collect gravel and disperse it in the park making smooth travel difficult.

The Sun Valley Skate Park in Washoe County is one area hit particularly hard by bike use and and user conflict. Superintendent for Washoe County Parks and Recreation, Doug Mullens said that signs posting usage and safety requirements have been repeatedly torn down.

“We had a meeting. We sent a direct mailer to people’s homes, but eventually just talked to the kids that were there because no one showed up,” said Mullens regarding meetings intended to discuss maintaining the park.

Mullens said that graffiti, fighting, trash, and the deterioration of park benches – anything that can be used to jump or jump over objects – have been the result of misuse and user irresponsibility.

“I’ve done some looking around on the internet and discovered that the only way to control who uses the park – if the users can’t police themselves – is to fence and staff it,” said Mullens.

Wagener said that he doesn’t want to blame the gang of bikers for skate park deterioration. He simply wants people who use the Truckee-Donner skate park to take an active role maintaining the area and enforcing the rules.

Dan O’Gorman, Superintendent for Truckee-Donner Park and Recreation District, said that the skate park can see up to 200 different users during weekends. He is aware of the occasional conflicts that occur but felt that most of the skateboarders have done a good job abiding by the rules, policing the area, and keeping the park graffiti-free.

O’Gorman did implement kids use hours at the park on Wednesday from 3:30 -4:30 p.m. and Saturday 8-9 a.m.


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