Vandalism May force closure of Skatepark

Originally published in Ventura County Star, November, 2008

Vandalism and graffiti in a Camarillo skate park have led local officials to call a community meeting in December and to warn that closure of the park might be a possibility.

Pleasant Valley Park and Recreation District officials have stepped up their efforts against the ongoing problems, which have occurred at the skate park at Pleasant Valley Park at Temple Avenue and Ponderosa Drive.

The latest vandalism has included profanity, obscene language and personal taunts painted directly onto the skate park floor, officials said. Park users also have been accused of setting fire to a pile of tree branches, producing flames up to 15 feet high, which were extinguished by the Ventura County Fire Department.

“We’re also seeing some really bad attitudes out there from some of the skaters themselves,” said Daryl Wagar, park superintendent. “They get pretty belligerent with us, with our staff and even with the police when we have to call them.”

Frustrated by the mounting costs of cleaning up each time the vandalism occurs, district officials said they have been looking for ways to involve the community to thwart the vandals and create a safe, organized atmosphere at the skate park.

The district will hold an open meeting at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 10 for all members of the public, including residents, park users, parents and other interested people. The meeting will be at the Boys & Girls Club, 1500 Temple Ave.

The groups and individuals involved in the issue include the Boys & Girls Club of Camarillo; Jesse Mota, owner of the skating supply shop Revolution, and his staff; and the family of Andrew Singler, a former skate-park user whose death in the summer shocked the community.

Past vandalism has included spray-painted tributes to Singler from those who knew him. The Singler family donated $2,500 to the district to be used for improvements to the skate park.

“Eventually, we want to do more programming and prevent vandalism from occurring,” said Amy Damron-Stewart, a park district supervisor who oversees administration of the skate park. “There are adults and kids who use the park, and we want very much to keep it open, to provide opportunities for people to use it, but we’re spending an awful lot of time and money cleaning it up.”

When cleanup is required, the park can be closed for days at a time, she said.

“Cleaning paint off the concrete surface is time-consuming and very expensive,” Damron-Stewart said.

Mota said his customers have taken the issue seriously.

“When they come into the store and we talk about it, we tell them that if things don’t change, the district could choose to close the park altogether,” Mota said. “And they (customers) are saying, ‘That can’t happen.’ ”

Closure is a possibility, according to Wagar and the district’s general manager, Dan LaBrado.

“Of course, we don’t want to close the park,” LaBrado said. “We want to keep it open and provide more programs, and this is our first effort in doing that,” he said, referring to the Dec. 10 meeting.

“We want to make sure it’s a safe and appropriate environment for all the users, and that means we need rules. Our goal is not to close it down, but the users have to take ownership,” he said.

Boys & Girls Club President Greg Stuart said he will attend the December meeting, too.

“We’re an advocate for all children in this community, and since the park is right here in our backyard, we want to be certain that the kids who are using it are able to do so safely,” Stuart said. “It’s in everyone’s interest that this works out to everyone’s benefit.”

LaBrado said the district’s newly established Park Patrol employees are becoming more of an established presence at the skate park.

He said the Park Patrol works closely with the community and as a liaison to the Camarillo Police Department, which is also involved in enforcement of park policies.

“We work closely with the Park Patrol and the (park district) administration,” said Sgt. Harold Hanley of the Camarillo Police Department. “We want to work as closely with the PVRPD as we can to see to it that their rules are enforced at the park.”

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