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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wallingford Skate park for teens has to wait

As published in the Record Journal Tuesday April 17, 2012

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

WALLINGFORD — The sluggish economy has stalled plans for a town owned skate park, but some local teens say it’s a need that should still be addressed.

In April 2008, more than 125 people came out to a meeting to support creating a local skate park. Locations were scouted and designs were drafted, but when the cost was estimated to be more than $250,000, town officials put the brakes on the project. But some want to see that effort revived and say that demand for a park has grown in the last four years.

“If we had that meeting today, there would be twice as many people in the room,” said Billy DeRoy, 15.

The problem has been exacerbated by the closing of a skate and BMX bike park in neighboring North Haven, according to DeRoy. In October, Haven Skatepark, an indoor facility, shut down due to roof damage caused by storms.

DeRoy said he understands the frustration of business owners and residents who don’t like to see skaters downtown, but said the problem is caused by a lack of places for skaters to gather.

“It’s not intentional,” he said.

But Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said building a park isn’t feasible given the current economic state.

“The money is just not there,” he said.

Dickinson’s proposed 2012-13 capital project budget is made up almost entirely of paving projects, with no new construction planned.

“It’s mainly basic things,” he said. “The economy has had an effect on what we can do.”

Democratic Town Councilor John Sullivan said that the local skaters were “victims of tough economic times.”

“A skate park would be nice, but it’s not happening this year and I don’t know if it will happen next year,” he said. “I hope they remain patient, don’t lose faith and understand the economics behind it.” The town-owned 6.11-acre Garden Road property was considered as a possible location. A misidentified section of the Quinnipiac River flood plain, Garden Road was approved for housing development in 1989 but was plagued by flooding issues. Homeowners sued, and the town settled with occupants of the 15-single- family homes with a partially state-funded $2.5 million buyout in 1998. The property has remained vacant since then.

Eric Ferrauola, 13, a friend of DeRoy’s, said that when he wants to bike in town he’s often met with complaints or police, who tell him to leave.

“It’s hard to ride ... they think we’re bad kids,” he said.

Town ordinance bars skaters from riding on sidewalks near the town center and on municipal property including the parking lots of Town Hall, the Police Department and Simpson Court. Lt. Marc Mikulski, the police spokesman, said officers usually ask skaters to go, and leave it at that unless they are causing other trouble.

Ferrauola said that he and his friends have to travel to the skate park in Cheshire’s Bartlem Park. They often bike from Wallingford along the busy Route 68.

“It’s dangerous on the roads,” he said.

DeRoy said skaters feel they have nowhere to go.

“We’re forced to go to other towns,” he said. “We’ve been pushed out of this town.”

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