Gilbert ponders privatizing skate park - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Gilbert ponders privatizing skate park

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Posted: Friday, January 5, 2007 5:15 am | Updated: 6:01 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The advisory board in charge of Gilbert’s parks is considering whether to privatize the town’s only skate park or hold events there to pay for more security due to an increase in criminal complaints.

Many parents and kids have said they don’t feel safe using Freestone Skate Park and go to parks in other cities as an alternative, board member Cynthia Barnes Pharr said at a meeting of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on Thursday.

“The word is on the street that for real good kids, they don’t want to go here because they might get hurt,” she said.

The board is responding to recent incidents that include an Oct. 2 stabbing and vandalism at the park.

Jody Becker, the town’s chief ranger, told the board Thursday that the park has more incidents of vandalism, drugs and fighting than any other park and town, and often takes up a large percentage of resources.

The board did not vote on any specific recommendations, which would need Town Council approval.

But board member Melanie Dykstra asked town staff to research the possibility of allowing a private company to operate and oversee the park, as is done with other facilities.

The board plans to take up the issue again in an upcoming meeting.

Town staff will report on whether the cost of insuring the park would be affected if they held skating events there to raise revenue to pay for an additional park ranger or security guard.

Only one skater, Dustin Thompson, 24, of Apache Junction, and one parent, Bobbi Smith of Gilbert, attended the meeting.

Thompson said many skaters were stunned to hear there were problems at the park.

“That’s the safest park, hands down, in all of Arizona,” he said.

Parks advisory board Chairman Jim Bilas said the board considers the safety problems at the park a serious issue, and wants skaters to help resolve it without the board resorting to extreme measures.

Smith said one of the problems is the park’s isolation from other activity areas in Freestone Park, near Lindsay and Guadalupe roads.

Parks director Maury Ahlman said one inexpensive solution would be to create a driveway through an adjacent field for police cruisers to routinely patrol the area.

Staff members said the cameras recently installed should also help them prosecute vandalism and other incidents at the park.

The new cameras are very high quality and will allow for easier identifying of suspects and prosecution, said parks superintendent Kenny Martin.

The cameras are motion activated and can be viewed from remote locations, including inside police cruisers, and possibly online in the future, Martin said.

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