GARDINER — The city committee looking to develop a skate park decided Monday night to not pursue moving a temporary skateboarding location to the site of the former O.C. Woodman School following strong objections at a public hearing from area residents.
One resident, Kathryn Paradee of School Street, compared the sound of skateboarders to Chinese water torture.
“The constant clickety-clack of skateboarding is enough to drive someone crazy,” Paradee told the members of the Parks and Recreation Committee.
She said she supports finding a place for skateboarders and building a skate park, but not in a residential area.
“It’s not I don’t want it in my front yard. I don’t want it in anyone’s front yard,” Paradee said.
Last month Gardiner City Council approved allowing skateboarders to use a section of the Waterfront Park parking lot until the end of October, but some councilors said they preferred moving the temporary location to the parking lot of the now-demolished school on School Street between Dresden Avenue and Pleasant Street, across the street from the Gardiner Common.
The property is owned by the city, and City Manager Scott Morelli said it may be possible to repave the lot without any direct monetary cost to Gardiner by using services by a contractor who owes the city money.
Area residents, however, said they didn’t want skateboarding there, even temporarily. Some also appeared to be concerned that the temporary location could become permanent.
Following the hour-and-a-half public hearing, committee members said they wouldn’t recommend to City Council to move skateboarding to the former school parking lot.
Jack Fles, chairman of the committee, said the skateboarders will stay at Waterfront Park for the summer.
“We certainly heard the neighbors, and there was great opposition. One-hundred percent opposition,” Fles told the Kennebec Journal just after the public hearing.
Skateboarding is illegal in Gardiner, so young skateboarders, mostly high school students, and their parents have been working with the city to find a place to skate safely and without being stopped by police.
The ultimate goal is to build a permanent concrete skate park somewhere in the city. It would be similar to the skate park at Williamms Park in Augusta, but likely smaller.
Nate McKenna, the father of one of the skateboarders, said even though the parking lot at the former school wouldn’t be anything more than a flat surface, some place is better than nothing.
“No one’s here to drive it down anyone’s throat. We just need a place for the kids to skate legally,” he said.
Committee member Brian Files told attendees that the committee is trying to find a place for skateboarders that is larger than the small paved circle that is blocked off for them in the parking lot of Waterfront Park.
“If there are other ideas, we’re more than willing to listen,” he said.
After the public hearing, Files said to the other committee members that he thinks they really need to find a permanent location, so the community members working on the effort can begin fundraising and other work to build an actual skate park.