EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 6, 2013

Spinning their wheels

Skateparks closed in Windham, Plaistow

By John Toole and Alex Lippa, Staff writers
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Spring has arrived, but two local skateparks remain closed.

Officials in Windham and Plaistow closed parks in their towns after behavior became a problem.

Windham closed its park in September. Plaistow locked up its nearly new facility in October 2011.

There doesn’t appear to be much hope on the near horizon for skateboarders in either community.

Windham selectmen last fall voted to give park volunteers and supporters time to come up with a monitoring plan to reopen the park.

But recreation coordinator Cheryl Haas said volunteers have not come forward.

”(Selectmen) had sent a directive to the group,” Haas said. “Nothing happened.”

She is scheduled to provide a skatepark update to selectmen during their meeting Monday at 7 p.m. in the Community Development offices, 3 North Lowell Road.

Windham officials had made clear last fall that something would have to come forward over the winter, so Haas, the Recreation Committee and the police department could review a proposal well in advance of spring.

”The onus is on you,” former Selectmen’s Chairman Bruce Breton told parents and skaters at the time.

Parents and skaters had some heavy hitters on their side in fighting to reopen the skatepark.

Reps. Charles McMahon and Mary Griffin, both R-Windham, had appealed to town officials to find options for keeping the park open.

Town officials closed the skatepark last year because of profanity, littering and skaters refusing to wear helmets.

The behavior problems led to police and recreation employees making repeated trips to the skatepark in Griffin Park.

Parents had suggested volunteer monitors might be the answer, though recreation officials were skeptical they would make a difference given the disrespect some skaters showed toward town officials.

Windham Recreation Committee Chairman Dennis Senibaldi said parents did not meet with the committee, despite repeated efforts by Haas to reach out to them and schedule a meeting.

A parent finally reached out to Windham police this week about meeting, but it was unclear whether there is a plan.

”They have not presented a plan to us,” Chief Gerald Lewis said.

If so, it would be coming late, beyond the time selectmen had indicated was acceptable to town officials.

“They have waited until the 11th hour,” Lewis said.

In Plaistow, the skatepark at Ingalls Terrace Park was only open for three months before noise complaints from neighbors prompted town officials to close it in October 2011.

The town is still looking for a new location to house the $20,000 park.

“We haven’t discussed it as a board yet,” Selectman Daniel Poliquin said. “We would eventually like to move it.”

Poliquin said there have been discussions about moving the park to a more centralized area, but no specific locations have been made public.

“It would likely involve a land swap,” Poliquin said. “But I can’t discuss where it would be.”

He expressed hope the town would be able to move the park this summer, but there are no plans on the selectmen’s agenda to discuss the park at any future meetings.

Poliquin said he hoped to hear from new recreation director Christina Cruz for her input on how the park should be utilized.

Cruz could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But the main concern to Poliquin is being able to utilize what the taxpayers paid for.

“I’d like to see it open somewhere eventually,” he said. “I don’t want it just sitting there.”

Approximately $15,000 in equipment would have to be moved to the new location. Poliquin said the town would likely have to incur other costs if officials decide to move it.