Battle Ground could make adjustments to its rules on hours of operation for the darker months of the year at the city’s skate park, though the city council is currently split on whether or not adjusting times will help or hurt some of the current problems the location has.
During its May 1 meeting, the Battle Ground City Council discussed changing the current dawn-to-dusk hours of park operation to set times. The issue first came to the council’s attention when Battle Ground resident Michael Stukov spoke at an April 3 meeting.
The limited hours of the skate park during the winter months make it infeasible for youth getting out of school to have time at the park, he said.
“They usually have to go home first and either get permission from the parents in order to go,” Stukov said. “By the time they get to the skate park, it’s already dusk.”
Although current city code has all parks with dawn-to-dusk hours, there is a provision where the skate park’s hours may be changed while using existing lighting. At the May meeting, Battle Ground City Manager Erin Erdman said having more consistent times for closing the park’s gates would help from a staffing standpoint.
“In the winter time it’s dark by 4:45, and so by the time (skaters) are getting out there, it’s already closed,” Erdman said.
The gate to the park is opened by city operations staff in the mornings and closed by Battle Ground police in the evenings, Erdman said.
The 27,500-square-foot skate park was unveiled in 2007. It has since played host to seasonal festivals and was attended by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk in 2017.
The park doesn’t just serve Battle Ground residents. While at the park May 2, Orchards resident Justin Berni said he knew of a number of skaters from Vancouver and Portland who would like a place to skate in the darker months.
“It’s hard, because after work in the wintertime it’s already dark,” Berni said.
The park is a draw from outside Battle Ground given its size, he said.
“All the other ones are just too cramped. Too many people in a small space,” Berni said.
Erdman noted a grant for police surveillance the city is attempting to secure would allow for more cameras to be installed at the site. She said currently the skate park lighting is on all the time in order to use the existing cameras.
Erdman said the city receives several inquiries about skate park times around the time dusk comes earlier every year.
Councilor Adrian Cortes didn’t feel there was a need to make any change to the skate park’s hours.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s a huge groundswell,” Cortes said.
Mayor Philip Johnson responded by saying the average teenaged user of the park would not be a demographic to actively petition the city on its park operations code.
“I think, what does it hurt, and what if we just set a period and give it a shot?” Johnson proposed.
Johnson suggested having a 5:30 p.m. closing in the winter to allow time for police who were ending their shift to take care of the closure. He said his main concern was “mischief and vandalism,” though in talking with staff at NW Ambush Extreme Sports on Main Street, he gets the feeling the patrons of the park are more receptive to stewardship.
“They seem to be better in policing themselves now,” Johnson said. “They’re not vandalizing the place like they have in the past.”
Deputy Mayor Cherish DesRochers felt a later time like 10 p.m. seemed reasonable.
“Kids aren’t even done with their after-school sports and stuff like that,” DesRochers said.
She preferred youth having a lit, recorded space to gather, rather than some other area.
Councilor Troy McCoy was receptive to a trial on expanded hours, but he wanted to see patrons take better care of the place.
“If we are going to expand the service of this facility, then I want the people that are using it to take ownership of it, take care of it,” McCoy said.
In an effort to deter vandalism, councilor Shauna Walters suggested enlisting artists to put their own art on the concrete to discourage some of the more “nefarious” graffiti. She said she was also in favor of the hours going to 10 p.m. on a trial basis.
Councilor Tricia Davis said assuming a later time of operation would lead to more problems was a “glass half-empty” situation. She favored giving later hours a try, though not to 10 p.m. in the wintertime.
“If we find that it’s not working, then they lose their privileges, but to go and not give them a chance, to me, is not the way to go about it,” Davis said.
DesRochers didn’t believe every night in the winter would have skaters at the park until 10 p.m.
“I don’t think they’re going to utilize it (that late) except for if it’s a super-nice day, (then) they’re going to want to get as much time in as they can,” DesRochers said.
Councilor Shane Bowman wasn’t convinced having the skate park lit would be enough of a deterrent to an increase of issues.
“When the lights are out and you can’t see everything, things are going to happen. It doesn’t matter how many cameras you have up there,” Bowman said.
The council didn’t make a formal vote on extending hours, in part because with summer coming, it wasn’t necessary given current code.
Bowman said paying attention to what happens when the park closes late by virtue of the season should inform whether or not making a change for the winter would be prudent.
“If we want to see what it’s going to do, just see what it does this summer,” Bowman said.
Reporter Cade Barker contributed to this story.
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