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Burrillville's new skate park draws a crowd

August 12, 2013

BURRILLVILLE – Four years after it was shut down because of incidents of misconduct, the town has reopened the Burrillville skate park at a new location on Chapel Street in Harrisville.
Town officials are banking on the new location, which has better visibility and is away from school buildings and residential homes, to eliminate the kinds of incidents that forced the original park to close back in 2009.
The new park opened recently on land the town acquired from the state and includes several parking spaces, picnic tables, and access to the Clear River and nearby bike path. The equipment is the same equipment from the old park, but it has been cleaned up and repainted.
The park will be open daily from 9 am to dusk, weather permitting.
Since it opened, the skate park has been a beehive of activity.
“It’s beautiful,” said Cheri R. Hall, the town’s former parks and recreation department director who now manages the town’s Spring Lake Beach facility.
The purchase of the land and materials were paid for by a grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and all of the site work was done by the Department of Public Works.
The town’s original skate park opened in 2004 at Eccleston Field, but was shut down five years later after all options to resolve bad conduct of the juveniles who frequented the park were unsuccessful.
At the time, police were receiving complaints of inappropriate conduct and disorderly conduct at the park, which was not the skateboarders themselves, but a group of kids who were hanging around and watching the skaters.
Part of the problem with the old park was that it was located near residential homes and directly across the street from the W.L. Callahan Elementary School. The field was also used by the high school cross country team and at least some of the complaints that were lodged at the time came from a teacher associated with that team.
As a result, skateboarding ramps and other equipment were disassembled and put into storage while town officials reevaluated the situation.
Town officials finally agreed a couple of years ago to re-open the park, but this time on a parcel owned by the state across from the Sunoco filling station on Route 100, a state highway. The state had used the parcel for years to store sand, and more recently, trucks and equipment during a recent bridge project.
“What makes this location ideal is that it is located between the two villages and is near the new bike path,” said Jeffrey McCormick, director of the DPW and parks and recreation department, adding the new park is not near any residential homes or schools, and is more visible and out in the open.
The bike path, which opened last year, runs between the two village centers of Harrisville and Pascoag. The path is about a mile and a quarter long, and traverses a 55-acre tract of land that has been preserved as open space. The path was funded from a variety of sources, including $100,000 from the Recreational Trails Program.
The town bought the land with funds from a state grant the town was awarded a couple of years ago, and a more recent $75,000 state grant paid for the work and materials to build the 12,000-square-foot skate park.
“Our guys did all the excavation and grading and then they re-painted the metal ramps,” said McCormick said.
Skateboarding remains one of the nation’s most popular activities among kids and young adults, and parks departments across the nation know it.
According to Recreation Management magazine, parks districts put “new skate park” at number 6 among their planned amenities nationwide.
Today, there are skate parks in towns throughout Rhode Island, including Glocester and Cumberland and, at one time, North Smithfield.
A few years ago, North Smithfield dismantled its skateboard park at Pacheco Park, a move town officials say was unavoidable because of ongoing incidents of vandalism, graffiti and misconduct at the facility.
North Smithfield's park was paid for through fundraising efforts and with charitable donations from a local family.
In 2010, the North Smithfield Town Council decided to close the skateboard park and playground at the request of Department of Public Works Director Raymond J. Pendergast Jr., who had reported that vandalism and general misconduct at the facility had spiraled out of control. The vandalism included constant damage
to the fence that surrounds the park, which had raised concerns from Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, the town's insurer.
Both Hall and McCormick are hoping that the kids who use or visit the Burrillville park obey all the rules and regulations and are, above all, respectful of other people and their surroundings.

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