Were a bunch of kids rousted by the cops on Wednesday as they enjoyed the
fine spring weather at the skate park off 15th Street?
Or did the kids have no business being there in the first place because the
very first kid inside the park got there by busting into the place?
Depends on whom you ask.
On Thursday the Chesterton Tribune received an angry e-mail from the
father of one of the 25 or so other skateboarders who were told to leave the
park on Wednesday afternoon by a Chesterton police officer.
“The police officer stated that it hasn’t been open yet for the season,” the
father wrote in the e-mail. “Funny thing is, the gate has no lock on it and
there is no sign stating the hours, rules, or when the park is closed. This
is like putting a bone in front of a dog and not letting him have it.”
“All the other parks in town are always open,” the father added. “What is
going on? I call this bullying. I know this is the way this town has always
been toward the youth because I grew up here and also was a skateboarder in
my youth. The cops come there and just sit and watch for trouble. Let these
kids be. This kind of mentality has to stop so our kids can enjoy what they
Police Chief George Nelson, however, gave the Tribune this account of
events. On Wednesday afternoon an officer was dispatched to the Prairie
Duneland Trail after receiving a report of mopeds being illegally driven on
the trail. “The officer went to investigate and noticed that gate to the
skate park was still locked but that someone had taken it upon themselves to
unbolt the brackets of the fencing and then peel it back,” Nelson said. “The
skate park was entered that way. Then the locked gate was pushed open.”
The officer, Nelson said, unsure of what to do next, contacted
Superintendent Bruce Mathias, who told the officer that the park is
officially closed and to instruct the skateboarders to leave. Mathias
himself then came to the scene.
In short, Nelson said, “it was an act of vandalism and of trespass.”
Mathias picked up the story from there. In fact there was a lock on
the gate, he said. Not a very good one, as it turns out, and not capable of
resisting a sustained push. “The fencing was peeled back and then the gate
was pushed open from the inside. The lock was still on the gate. It’s not
the most serious lock.”
“If there’s a lock on it, there’s a reason for that,” Mathias said, then
added that it took 90 minutes or so to repair the damage to the fencing.
Mathias did agree with the angry father that there currently is no signage
posted at the park giving the hours of operation and the rules. But there
soon will be, since he and Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann have only just this
week been discussing the wording on the signage.
At some point, Mathias explained, the town’s insurance carrier visited the
skate park and was unhappy, for liability reasons, that no signage
articulating the facility’s rules had been posted. That’s why, he said, the
skate park was closed and locked, to give him and Lukmann the opportunity to
formulate those rules.
“The State of Indiana requires that if you’ve got park equipment on which
kids can get hurt, you have to post rules” for its usage.
“We’re getting the exact wording for signs worked out now, the signage will
be made soon, and then we’ll put it up and open the park,” Mathias said.