By Marty Farmer
When planners remade the recently re-opened Scoville Park, they replaced the concrete pad surrounding the Peace Triumphant monument at the park's crest with gravel, the better to keep skateboarders from jumping off the statue's stairs.
However, at least some boarders have discovered a new platform for skating at Scoville – the recently installed curved hardwood benches around the Peace Plaza and the park's entrance at Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street.
This has led to some intense discussions between skate and non-skate park patrons and the installation of temporary signs to reinforce the park district's prohibition on skateboarding except in designated locations.
Two of the people involved in a recent encounter with a bench-riding boarder at Scoville are Josephine Bellalta and her husband, John Mac Manus. They are the principals of Altamanu, Inc., the park district's design firm which crafted the $2 million redo of Scoville Park.
Bellalta and Mac Manus were in the park recently when a young man on his skateboard headed up to Peace Plaza and the Peace Triumphant Monument. Once in the plaza, he surveyed the area and then jumped on the curved benches on the west side of the monument in order to skateboard. Several senior citizens were sitting close by the benches when the impact of the skateboard on the benches make a loud, disturbing noise that reverberated through the park.
When he was asked by several people to stop skateboarding, he responded, "I have every right to skate in the park as I'm a taxpayer."
As the discussion between several park patrons and the young man continued, the latter expressed an unwillingness to leave.
A senior citizen elected to call the police. Consequently, the young man skated down the hill and proceeded to skate on the new benches between park patrons at the Oak Park Avenue entrance. He then defiantly turned and slammed down on his skateboard on the oval bench at the entrance looking back at the patrons he had been talking with by the Peace Plaza.
"The benches are not designed to take the impact of skating over time," Bellalta said. "Even though they are made of the hardest sustainable hardwood available, they will eventually be destroyed if skating continues. Skate park elements are designed specifically to take the impact and wear and tear of skateboarding, and even they often break down in time."
According to Bellalta, one of Altamanu's staff members also saw two young men skateboarding on the monument steps, on the newly installed curved benches, on the new stone columns and down the sloped paths to the southeast and southwest park entrances.
Benches at the northeast corner and east side of the Peace Plaza are still to be installed.
Oak Park prohibits skateboarding in any park unless it's designated as a skate park. The Park District of Oak Park ordinance states: "No person shall ride a skateboard in any park facility where the use of such devices is posted as prohibited. No person shall use any such device in any manner that interferes with or threatens any other park district patron."
The park district has temporary signs and will place permanent signs to prohibit skating in obviously inappropriate locations.
Bellalta said park patrons are encouraged to speak up when they see inappropriate activity or call the police to report it.
"We at Altamanu strongly support the skateboarding community," Bellalta said. "We are outspoken advocates for local skate parks and we also employ several skateboarders on our staff. As part our advocacy, we believe that skateboarding should be allowed and encouraged in appropriate places, and at appropriate times. Scoville Park isn't one of those locations and the benches are not designed for skateboarding."
During extensive planning for Scoville Park's redesign, a location for a skate park or a skate dot (a small installation) within the park was considered inappropriate by the community for such activity.