Vandals’ graffiti paints skaters into a corner

KINGSTON — Discussion about the current state of local skate parks has county officials, community members and skaters doing flips and turns, but not so much on the concrete jungle.

At an Oct. 15 work study session, Director of Facilities, Parks and Recreation Cris Gears informed county commissioners about the serious damage found lately at the skate parks in Kingston and Silverdale. The commissioners immediately responded by suggesting the county, community and youth to come together to find a resolution, said Commissioner Chris Endresen.

Gears said community members have been expressing their concerns about the lack of maintenance at the parks. But the county isn’t neglecting the areas, he confirmed.

“We are paying attention,” Gears explained. “But what we are doing is spending most of our time and money repairing vandalism rather than routine maintenance.”

The county does not advocate closing the parks, he added, but since that rumor started recently, it’s actually worked in the county’s favor by getting the attention of many citizens.

Both Gears and Endresen said they do not believe the skaters themselves are doing the damage, but the kids may have an idea of who is destroying the property.

“I don’t understand why users would destroy something they use,” Gears commented.

Dori Lechner, the special projects and volunteer coordinator for the parks department, relayed what had been damaged since the Kingston park opened in 2001.

While the maintenance responsibility falls under the parks department, county officials and community members have asked the users of the park to help patrol the area and report any vandalism.

“Talk kid to kid,” Lechner called it.

But since it opened, not much talking has taken place.

Two benches and two trash cans were initially installed, she said. Now only one bench and a single trash can, now padlocked and chained, remain.

The retention pond and sprinkler heads at the south end of the park have been destroyed, Lechner said, noting they are maintained by the county stream and stormwater management division. The park’s rules sign was destroyed and replaced eight times in the first year and there is no sign now, she added.

Lechner emphasized the need for the community and county to end the rampant vandalism.

“The parks department and community need to work together to resolve those issues,” she said.

Since last week’s meeting, the buzz about the future of Kingston’s park has affected various sectors of the Kingston community, especially Evans Matan’s EBS skate shop. Matan’s store is a stone’s throw from the park and a hangout for the park users. Evan’s wife Mandy Matan has been working with the county to paint over the graffiti and has recruited skaters and employees to help her tidy the park.

“The garbage has been so ridiculous,” she said. “I’ve been going down there with our employees and cleaning up the park.”

Mandy noted the bathroom was burned down this past summer with fireworks.

“That was another one person doing something stupid, making everyone else look bad,” she said. “It’s a respect thing. We really gotta learn some respect.”

Mandy said she’s also noticed within the last month or so about eight to 10 kids using the park for a hangout at night.

“I think a majority of (them) who use it are not skateboarders,” she said. “They use it after hours.”

But Mandy said she noticed the area being patrolled by police more recently, which she believes will help discourage the after hours crew.

However, despite the negativity, she stressed the park is important for the community and there needs to be some cooperation from everyone to help keep it open.

“The skateboard park is wanted by a lot of people. A lot of kids use it,” Mandy said. “Skateboarding is an outlet for a lot of energy. It takes some serious skill. You have to have this mind-body control. Otherwise you go out in front of businesses and in the street.”

The community and the county will discuss the matter at the next Kingston Citizens Advisory Committee meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Kingston Community Center. Gears and other community members are expected to attend.

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