By Tony Parra
They came dressed in black, with a mission to save their park.
News of the city’s skate park closing brought out teens and parents wearing black shirts with the words “Operation Keep Skate Park” to the city meeting on Tuesday evening.
The shirts were similar to the yellow shirts Portales residents wore to the regional hearing of the Base Realignment and Closure committee which read, “Operation Keep Cannon.”
Ron Jackson, city councilor and chairman of the parks and recreation board, and City Manager Debi Lee were proposing to close the skate park because of safety issues with the equipment. They wanted to begin discussing an alternate site and funding for a new skate park.
However, on Tuesday night Lee announced she and Jackson will meet with members of the Portales Skatepark Organization to discuss the transition to a different location. Lee said she will schedule a meeting with members of the organization for alternate sites, funding and equipment.
“We have a large number of not only children, but parents and business owners in support of the skate park,” Mary Carvey of the Portales Skatepark Organization said. “We’re against closing it. Our main concern was that the skate park not be immediately closed.
“We’ve (skate park organization members) been looking at getting it moved. We want to emphasize this is a good group of kids and we promote what they love.”
More than 40 teens and parents showed up to the city meeting in support of the skate park and the children and teen that use it.
“I was devastated when I heard about it (skate park closure),” Mary Cline, a parent of two high school sophomores who use the skate park, said. “I have to say, at first, I was leery about them going to the skate park. But you couldn’t ask for any better kids than the kids at the skate park.”
So in the meantime, the skate park will not be closed in the summer. The proposed closure was a result of answers from 478 surveys of Portales residents for the strategic plan of parks and recreation in Portales.
Some of the complaints about the park from the survey included teens smoking around children, the park’s danger to younger children, the proximity to youth baseball fields. Surveys also said that users were rude and used foul language.
Chris and Aaron Cline said they have been using the skate park for the last four years. Their father, Floyd Cline, said the complaints in the surveys didn’t apply to his children.
“They are A and B students,” Floyd Cline said about his sons. “They (people who filled out the surveys) stereotyped my kids. My kids are not gangsters and they’re not thugs. They like to (skate).”
“It’s been pretty tough,” Jimmie Shiner, a teen member of the Portales Skate Park Organization, said about collecting donations for equipment for the skate park. Shiner said the organization was started in 2001.
“They (business owners) had an issue with the location,” Shiner said. “They didn’t want to make an investment on a location if it wasn’t going to last for a long time. They didn’t want their money to go to waste. It’s been difficult to get community support.”
Carvey said in order to get rid of stereotypes of those who use the skatepark, they need the support of the city.
Lee and Jackson applauded the willingness of the parents and teens to be a part of the planning process of the new skate park.
“We want your group to bring a proposal to the recreation board,” Jackson said. “This (turnout in support of skate park) is what we’re looking for. That passion. You folks are willing to get on the right track and build a facility you’re proud of.”