WINDHAM — Bad behavior may force the closure of the skate park in Griffin Park.
The skate park is closed pending a public hearing next week to discuss the possibility of dismantling the equipment at the end of the season.
“We’ve always had some incidents, but it’s just been out of control lately,” said Cheryl Haas, recreation coordinator.
Some users have been breaking the rules by skating without helmets, smoking, cursing and leaving excessive trash, Haas said. Staff members have become hesitant to approach them because it often results in a scene that disturbs other park visitors, she said.
Griffin Park is a wonderful resource used by many community members, and the skate park is becoming a nuisance, Haas said.
“It’s just an eyesore at the park,” Haas said. “It’s just not worth the aggravation anymore.”
The town has tried a permit system and a self-policing policy to no avail. For the past three to four weeks a no-tolerance policy has been in place allowing recreation staff to lock the skate park for 24 or 48 hours. Some skaters still jump over the fence when the gate is locked, Haas said.
“It’s a shame, but it’s time,” she said.
Police Capt. Mike Caron said police are called to the park often. The behavior is no different from other teens and doesn’t reflect on all skateboarders, he said.
“During prime-time summer, we’re out there quite a bit,” Caron said.
Dennis Senibaldi, recreation committee chairman, spoke before the Board of Selectmen Monday evening. Senibaldi has been a proponent of the skate park but now supports closing it.
“It kills me. I know it’s a donation. It breaks my heart,” Senibaldi said.
Cursing from the skate park can be heard at the nearby soccer fields and some of the skaters show “little, if any, respect for anyone with authority,” Senibaldi said. The behavior disrupts others who visit to walk, play basketball or enjoy the park, he said.
Selectman Phil LoChiatto said the problems at the skate park are becoming a detriment to people who love to use the park and a possible liability to the town.
Board members were also concerned about the amount of time police spend on calls to the skate park. Selectman Roger Hohenberger supported closing the park but said the issue deserves a public hearing first.
“Since the start I haven’t seen anything change out there, and I agree it has become a drain on the police service,” Hohenberger said.
The skate park usually closes for the season on the Sunday after Veterans Day.