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Teens lament loss of skate park

By Christine Legere
Globe Correspondent / September 15, 2011

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Local skateboarders and rollerbladers and their families were surprised to see a popular East Bridgewater skate park bulldozed two days after they had held a major cleanup there, and they plan to ask selectmen Monday if the equipment can be salvaged and set up in a new location.

The Skylur J. Spagone Memorial Skate Park was built next to the fire station on Route 18 in 2004 in memory of a local child who died in a pool accident. About $60,000 was put into the original construction and equipment, according to Peter Spagone Jr., who oversees the memorial fund in his daughter’s name. Another $20,000 has since been spent.

While the skate park has experienced issues, including two years when it was closed because of vandalism and litter, it has enjoyed quite a bit of popularity among teenage skateboarders and bike riders since reopening in 2009.

But the park was dismantled Sept. 6 to make way for a new junior-senior high school. Supporters will look to officials Monday for some alternatives.

“We’re hoping they can tell us the situation so we know what we’re in for,’’ said resident Diane Carey. “We’re hopeful we can at least save the equipment.’’

Carey’s 14- and 15-year-old sons, Nicholas and C.J., are avid skateboarders who spent much of the summer at the park.

“They were skating there a couple weeks ago when the police told them the park was going to be torn down,’’ Carey said. “I told the boys maybe we could do something about it. We got a group of kids and parents together and had a cleanup day, but two days later the park was gone. We thought we had more time.’’

Carey’s sons must now find transportation to skate parks in Hanson or Halifax.

“They could ride their bikes to the East Bridgewater park,’’ she said.

School Superintendent Susan Cote said she notified Spagone of the need to move the park because of the school project several months ago.

“He understood,’’ Cote said.

Spagone said he spent six months searching for alternatives. The most promising was a plan to move it to the East Bridgewater YMCA.

“We had engineers look at it, and we had ideas and plans, but when it came to the final decision, the higher-ups at the YMCA said they’d pass,’’ Spagone said. “That was a major blow.’’

Spagone spoke with the town’s recreation department and even explored a joint effort with other towns.

“We found out, because of all the negative publicity that goes with skate parks, a lot of towns don’t want them,’’ he said. “To say we had doors closed in our faces would be an understatement.’’

Neighboring Bridgewater, for example, dismantled its skate park in August 2010 after its fencing was clipped with bolt-cutters and a mattress and couch dragged in and set on fire. The park was closed at the time because of vandalism problems.

Not everyone in East Bridgewater is sad the see the skate park go.

“There were a lot of kids using it for the right purposes, but unfortunately a few weren’t, so there was trash and graffiti,’’ said Police Chief John Cowan. “My officers cleaned it up, and we used people from the court doing community service, but every time it was cleaned, it wouldn’t be long before the trash and graffiti were back.’’

Helen Hurley, whose 14-year-old son Joe is a skilled skateboarder, predicts Monday’s selectman’s meeting, at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall, will be packed with concerned parents and children, if the Save the E.B. Skate Park Facebook page is an indication.

“It has 144 members,’’ Hurley said.

Christine Legere can be reached at