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Local News

City Throws in Towel on Skateboard Park Closure

Santa Barbara's Skater's Point will officially reopen for July 4 holiday

Santa Barbara police officers discuss how to enforce the closure of the Skater’s Point skateboard park, which was widely ignored Tuesday and Wednesday by skaters. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

After fighting what appeared to be a losing battle with youthful skaters to keep the city’s waterfront skateboard park closed, Santa Barbara officials announced Wednesday afternoon that Skater’s Point would reopen in time for the July 4 holiday.

The city had temporarily closed Skater’s Point on Tuesday, citing unruly behavior and drug use over the weekend by some skaters.

The park’s entrances were boarded up, flyers were posted, and chains were place across the skate areas to inhibit skaters. The facility along Cabrillo Boulevard near Stearns Wharf was planned to stay closed until Friday.

But the skateboarders were undaunted by the city’s efforts, and at least twice cut the chains lining the park, and ripped down flyers that the city Parks and Recreation Department kept stapling to the wooden barriers blocking both entrances.

Parks Director Nancy Rapp caved on her three-day closure and announced Wednesday afternoon that the park will open Thursday morning.

She decided to close the park following a Sunday incident of park users throwing water balloons at passersby and responding city staff, and hurling insults and threats as well.

It was meant to get attention, but skaters used bolt cutters to get rid of the chains and were back in the park quickly.

They even set up scouts to shout warnings when a park ranger or police officer was spotted nearby, so everyone could get out of the park in time.

“We’ve continued to have a problem with restriction of any of the barriers we’ve put into place, and we were concerned for police resources; this is a busy time for the holiday,” Rapp said. “We’re hoping that when the skate park opens, everything will go smoothly and we’ll have people on better behavior.”

There will be an increased presence of police and park rangers, as there has been all week, she added.

There was a heavy police presence Wednesday afternoon, when one officer parked his car on the lawn near the park for a while, watching the group.

Skaters decided to circle around the squad car and take pictures with their phones, and the officer drove away shortly after.

One local man, Alan Florian, 20, said it’s tradition for him to skate at the park with friends every Fourth of July while his family barbecues nearby, and the closure – meant to continue through Thursday – was bad news for the people who follow the rules.

He suggested bringing back a supervisor or park monitor to keep out the people who only come to get drunk or high.

“Kids are just trying to have fun,” said Jason, 18, who usually rides BMX bikes and wandered by the closed park Wednesday afternoon. None of them would have been making trouble if not for the chains, he added.

Around 3 p.m. Wednesday, there were seven different Santa Barbara Police officers gathered in the parking lot near Skater’s Point talking over the problem, but not citing any of the skaters using the park at that time.

That included at least two squad cars, downtown beat coordinator Kasi Beutel, and two bicycle officers.

Police Sgt. Riley Harwood said police have been responding to calls at the park and making regular checks as part of their patrols, with about 10 visits for the first day and a half of the closure.

No one has been cited for using the closed park, but there were a few arrests and citations for drug-related crimes at or near the park Tuesday night, he said.

It was Rapp’s decision to close the park, and the police department “will try to support that to the best of our ability,” he said.

There used to a park monitor of sorts when the facility was new, after its construction in 2001, but staff were the victims of verbal and physical assault, among other things, he said.

Some of the park users are very confrontational, and a typical park monitor isn’t effective under those circumstances, he said.

The park has always been popular for skaters and spectators, with relatively few problems, Rapp said. The city has closed the park a few times due to situations with illegal or unsafe behavior, like drug use, drug dealing and vandalism.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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