Community expresses support of skatepark

NILES — On Friday, Aug. 21, the city staff were seen locking up the skatepark located at 600 Front St. Before its closure, Niles Police Chief Jim Millin said the decision was made due to fights and illegal activities being reported at the park.

A Facebook page titled Niles Michigan Skatepark has been urging the public to respect the closure, while the city cleans up the park. The park has seen an increase in calls to the police for fighting and incidents, as well as damage to a bench, table and graffiti.

At the regular Niles City Council meeting hosted Monday evening remotely on Zoom, Niles resident Heidi Moore sent a statement to the council during citizen participation.

“What can my family do to help the cleanup process at the skate park?” Moore asked. “I would love to find ways to help get it ready and get it opened back up. I would like to find ways to help keep it safe for my children and everyone else.”

Mayor Nick Shelton said the park was in the process of being cleaned up this week.

“We are hopeful that our city staff is going to be able to clean it up and reopen it soon,” Shelton said.

City administrator Ric Huff said the city was planning to make repairs and reopen the park.

“We are trying to get some materials to repair the table and bench that were damaged inside the park,” Huff said. “If we can get the materials, the plan is to reopen the park on Friday.”

Huff and Shelton both encouraged families whose children skate at the park to accompany them while they were doing so. This way, parents could observe what is going on and report issues to the city and police department.

Another Niles resident, Jamie Sanderson, said his two children enjoy the skatepark.

“We are glad to help out in any way we can,” Sanderson said. “We as a family have tried to clean up the area as best we can. We just really want to see you guys move forward with the skatepark. It’s a good thing for the kids.”

Two business owners, Chance Smith, of The Rage, and Cindy Cataldo, of Front Street Pizza Pub, both located on Front Street, are working on a possible solution with the city and parks department.

Smith said on Tuesday the business owners were working together to potentially install security cameras at Front Street Pizza Pub that could look over the parking lot and skate park.

The cameras, Smith said, would be high definition and could be referenced in the case of an incident.

Smith took notice of all the attention the skate park had gotten as it was closed down. He had witnessed some of the police presence but had not realized there had been enough of a problem for the city to close the skate park down.

“We are hoping we could just kind of help the community out as a whole, and make it so this doesn’t happen again,” Smith said.

Shelton said he hoped the closure would ensure people respected the park more in the future.

“I know that I’ve learned that many of the people who are disrespecting it aren’t actually the ones utilizing the park to skateboard, which is unfortunate,” he said. “I am hopeful it opens up and we are able to do a better job.”

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