When the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Department reported the sale of skateboard park equipment earlier this week, a few residents expressed surprise at the sale amount.
The park board accepted a $1 bid for the equipment from Mount Ski Gull.
Tony Sailer, Brainerd Parks and Recreation director, said the city put out a notice with the Minnesota Recreation and Parks Association accessible to every city in the state with a parks and recreation department. Mount Ski Gull was the sole bidder. Mount Ski Gull will be responsible to move the equipment for use in its snowboard park. Legally, the city can donate equipment to another city but has to go out for bids when selling to a business or nonprofit.
“The park board’s thought was it is essentially staying in the area and at least it’s going to be used and a lot of the skateboarders are snowboarders,” Sailer said.
The city originally purchased the equipment with a donated $100,000 grant from KABOOM! The skateboard park equipment was installed in 2004. After issues of vandalism and a broken concrete pad, the city closed the park last March. The city estimated the cost to replace the concrete pad was $20,000. Sailer said that is a considerable sum, especially in tight economic times.
When downtown business owner Nila Patrick first approached the park board about finding another site for the skateboard park, the board extended the deadline by three months to give her more time. On Jan. 28, Patrick told the park board her group was no longer interested in the skateboard park equipment.
“We just flat out could not reopen it,” Sailer said of the park, noting the cost for the concrete did not take into consideration the added money to fix equipment. And with broken and damaged concrete, Sailer said the real issue was an opinion by the League of Minnesota Cities that Brainerd should close the skateboard park because it presented a liability.
Sailer said people may be forgetting the recent cost of maintenance for Jaycees Park in southeast Brainerd. He said crews were constantly going there to paint over graffiti and make repairs. However, that cost can’t be laid solely at the feet of the skateboard park. Sailer said there was never evidence for a tie-in to skateboarders regarding vandalism and it would be an unfair assumption without proof. Much of the damage to the concrete pad, Sailer said, came from bicycle use of the equipment.
Shortly after the skateboard park was closed, the city used a donation from the Jaycees to put in security cameras. Two groups of kids, one with three young people and one with two, were picked up vandalizing the park. The vandals were identified and the city received restitution from them. One of the groups hit a couple of other parks as well.
“The camera itself slowed down the vandalism down there,” Sailer said. Jaycees Park is more secluded and is the city’s most vandalized park. Sailer said there wasn’t much vandalism before but at that time there weren’t a lot of amenties at the park either.
The skateboard park in Crosby is not known to have similar vandalism issues, but it is next to the city’s police station. Sailer said to his knowledge the park in Perham and the one in Bemidji haven’t had issues. In Detroit Lakes, Sailer said vandalism had the city shut the park down temporarily.
Sailer said people have remarked the city is putting in a $15,000 dog park while removing an activity for children. However, he said the funding for the dog park was entirely from a donation and wasn’t coming from taxpayers.
Some residents suggested selling the skateboard park equipment for scrap to bring in more than a $1. Sailer said the park board thought by taking the bid from Mount Ski Gull the equipment could still be used within the community.
“We didn’t just make a snap decision on this,” Sailer said. “We followed all the procedures we were supposed to follow and we looked at other angles, too. It just didn’t work out.”
Brainerd initially got the donation of the equipment because the city had an existing concrete slab and had fabricated metal ramps there prior to the KABOOM! donation. Sailer said it may not have been an ideal location. On the other hand, he said the park’s more remote setting didn’t give people the right to spray paint it constantly and damage the equipment.
Sailer credited Kindboards, a downtown Brainerd business involving skateboards, for working to cleanup the site and put the word out in the community against the vandalism.
“They went out there and at their own expense painted over all that stuff even after the park was closed,” Sailer said. “A lot of credit goes out to those guys. I’m sure it was a just a few bad apples and that ruins it for everybody some times.”
Sailer said he’s dealt with a lot of the kids from the skateboard community and they’ve been good kids. And the grafitti issued paled to the concern for the liability with the concrete pad, Sailer said.
“I’m not putting all the blame on the skateboarders by any means,” Sailer said. “It came down to it became a liability issue and we had to shut it down because of that.”