City departments volunteer to prepare skatepark for reopening

NILES — Beginning before the heat of the summer day began to swell, Niles city workers were out Thursday at the skatepark on Front Street on a mission. Niles Fire Chief Larry Lamb, Niles Police Chief Jim Millin, City Administrator Ric Huff were just a few of the prominent city figures still out at the skate park just before noon working to restore the park’s surfaces for skaters to enjoy when the lock is no longer on the park’s gate.

Following a closure of the skatepark due to an increase of calls in fights and graffiti reported by the Niles Police Department, the skatepark is expected to reopen on Friday.

Niles Fire Department Captain Don Wise was helping the clean-up effort around 11:45 a.m.

“They’ve been at it since 7:30 a.m.,” Wise said. “Just about every city department has been involved in getting this going today.”

With hoses, brushes and other cleanup equipment visible around the skatepark, there was still some work to be done. The graffiti in the skate bowls was less visible, but stubbornly kept its mark.

“We’ve got pressure washers with heaters that heat the water up to 200 plus degrees,” Wise said. “It is just very time consuming.”

Wise said because of the nature of the concrete and use of the park, use of any harsh chemicals to remove the graffiti was not an option for the clean-up crew. The park’s concrete is special in the way that it is poured and formed to create the surfaces where skaters challenge their skills and hone tricks.

“If we create rust sports or divots, little wheels don’t like little divots,” Wise said.

Wise recalled his son skating at the park while he was growing up. His son fell the first time as a child that he tried out skateboarding at the park as a child. He recalled his son working tirelessly through the years to improve. His son now skates at parks out in California. The skatepark was host to many fond memories for Wise.

Volunteers were used as cost of hiring a professional company to perform the cleanup was prohibitive to the city’s budget, said Wise. Each person at the park was taking time out of their day to work on it to ensure it could be opened back up while the weather was still warm and clear.

As he looked out into the park, the faded graffiti visible as the sun shined straight down into the skate bowls, Wise said he hoped it would be able to stay open for others to enjoy the way his son did.

“Hopefully, when the skaters come down, they don’t want it shut down again,” he said. “Hopefully, they will police themselves knowing that if the graffiti or fights begin again, we will have to shut it down again. We’re short staffed as it is, trying to get this work done.”

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