Vandalism forces skate park shutdown

HUDSON – In response to rampant littering and vandalism, the town has closed the skateboard park for the season several weeks early.

Such vandalism is becoming more common in area skate parks, prompting communities to consider ways to stop it.

Earlier this month, town workers found graffiti throughout the park, which is at the corner of Melendy and Central streets. Ramps and a fence that surrounded the soda machines were covered with graffiti as well.

Pepsi Co. removed two soda machines from the park sometime this summer, Recreation Director David Yates said.

“They were definitely abused,” he said.

The front panel had been kicked in and several parts, including the buttons and safety valve, were broken, Yates said.

A panel of a water cooler was also ripped out.

That was enough to prompt the early shutdown. The park is typically closed for the season in mid-November, when the weather becomes cooler.

Recreation Department officials notified the police of the vandalism, filing a report and taking pictures of the destruction.

Police have already interviewed several youngsters who use the park, Capt. Ray Mello said.

Many are good kids, Mello said, noting that it’s only a small group that is not acting responsible when they’re at the park.

Several hundred dollars worth of damage was done, Yates estimated. That includes the manpower needed to clean up the graffiti.

Trash has also been an ongoing problem at the park. It was closed for a weekend in May in response to increased littering. On one day, town employees collected four large bags of trash inside the park.

Hudson is not the only community that has had problems at its skateboard park.

Merrimack put an attendant at its park after there were problems with trash and vandalism, said Sherry Kalish of that town’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“It’s much better after that,” she said.

Tennis players at a nearby court had complained about the skaters playing loud music and at one point some of the skaters brought a refrigerator into the park, Kalish said. There was also a lot of trash found inside the park. The soda machine and a Porta-Potty were removed from the Nashua Skateboard Park after the machine was vandalized and the portable toilet repeatedly knocked over.

The Hudson Recreation Department is considering its options for more safeguards at the park, including hiring monitors for the weekends.

The department is also researching the cost of installing a surveillance camera that’s linked to the police station.

“We will try to open in the spring,” Yates said. “We’re hoping the selectman are willing to approve some of the things we’re looking into.”

The department has tried to instill a sense of responsibility or ownership in the skaters using the park, Yates said.

“It seemed like it was pretty good for awhile,” he said.

It may only be handful of people mistreating the park, but more people need to speak up, Yates said.

“If someone is coming in to destroy (their) park, why don’t they say something?” he asked.

Someone must have seen the damage being done, Yates said.

Many people put hard work into the park including volunteers, and local residents and companies who donated money and services, Yates said.

Since the park opened, the highway workers have done a lot work cleaning and maintaining the park.

“They’re pretty disgusted,” Yates said. “They’re tired of going every week to pick up trash.”

The Recreation Department is not yet considering closing the park permanently.

“I’d like to keep it. A lot of effort went into it,” Yates said. “We want to the put the word out that messing around with it will not be tolerated.”

The Police Department is asking anyone who may have seen any of the vandalism occurring at the Hudson park to call 886-6011.