Skateboarders discover benches in Scoville Park

Renovation nixed one skateboarding attraction, but boarders find new way to fly


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By Marty Farmer

Staff Reporter

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.

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OP Educator  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 4:38 PM

I know this article is old and this may not be read by anyone, but I am an educator in OP and I use the 7/8/13 11:58pm comment by "The dude" as a perfect example of poor reading comprehension at least once a month in my classroom. Multiple typos (my favorite: brake/break) show general lack of knowledge and the clear misunderstanding of what "Adult Skater" was saying is an easy way to show middle school students that reading carefully and proofreading are important.

OP Resident  

Posted: July 12th, 2013 2:33 PM

Just finished a walk through Scoville Park. It is beautiful and full of people enjoying the superb summer weather. There were 5 adults and 11 children in the children's NW section of the park. There was not one person in the adjacent (and larger) tennis courts. Maybe it could be converted to a bowling green for lawn bowlers. Got to be at least a couple of those in Oak Park.


Posted: July 10th, 2013 11:20 PM

Thank you Harold for calling the police. And I'll do the same if I'm ever in your situation.

Harold F. Hohlen from Oak Park  

Posted: July 10th, 2013 7:24 PM

I am the senior who offered to call the police when the skateboarder refused to acknowledge the prohibition against skateboarding. Earlier in the week I had encountered with the same person jumping off the monument and onto the benches. A beat police officer was in the vicinity. I complained to the officer and was told unless signs were posted prohibiting skateboarding he couldn't do anything about it. I called his supervisor and was told the prohibition should be enforced.

Paddy Boy  

Posted: July 10th, 2013 1:01 PM

Why don't we play tennis ON Skateboards. By the way Paddy's property taxes went down 23% year over year! Have faith .....

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 10th, 2013 9:43 AM

These skateboarders are breaking a village ordinance and disturbing the peace of other park patrons, not to mention endangering their lives. Arrest these delinquents, confiscate their skateboards, fine them $100. to be paid in community service such as sweeping the walks at the park with their toothbrush and then give them a kick in the ass for their stupidity.

guy from Oak Park  

Posted: July 10th, 2013 9:14 AM

Why not turn the never-used tennis courts into basketball courts that you actually leave the hoops on all day? You can then lock the gates at night, and anyone who sneaks in to play at night gets ticketed?


Posted: July 9th, 2013 11:51 PM

Yes, there's a skate park on Lake Street. And, as someone who lives near it, I can tell you that if it is closed, some skateboarders will just hop the fence or, if it is open, may prefer the steps to the park rather than the skate park itself. None of the behavior described in the article surprises me.

Pat from Oak Park  

Posted: July 9th, 2013 2:43 PM

I was amused and instructed by reading all the comments and do agree that skateboarders should use the skate park that was built for the purpose. However, I kind of like the idea of a mini-golf or putting area where the tennis courts are. Novel thought?

Lori M  

Posted: July 9th, 2013 1:51 PM

You people are aware that we do have a skatepark on Lake Street, right??

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: July 9th, 2013 1:15 PM

"rdglnd", what was your favorite part of the "old" Scoville? Was it the blind SW corner by the library, where homeless & druggies could hide or harass? Or maybe the aging playlot? Or the crumbling asphalt pad on which tennis was allegedly played? How about the dead/dying trees on the N & the SE ends? Or the "beloved" ugly metal stage/lightening rod used for concerts? Please deal w/the fact that Scoville was very tastefully updated in harmony w/the Jensen design, in partnership w/IDNR.


Posted: July 9th, 2013 12:11 PM

"We at Altamanu strongly support the skateboarding community. We are outspoken advocates for local skate parks and we also employ several skateboarders on our staff. ... 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."........... Seems like a quite reasonable statement. The problem is, too many skateboarders are juvenile and unreasonable.

Matt on Madison  

Posted: July 9th, 2013 11:53 AM

so you had a park before that you allowed skating then you ban it and wonder why the skaters complain. Get rid of the Tennis court and install a skate park. who cares that the tennis courts have been there since 1913. there never used and you have many more courts in Oak Park. gravel walkways, how stupid.


Posted: July 9th, 2013 11:33 AM

i just wanted to say that i loved this "news" story by a "reporter." it's clear what the WJ thinks about this issue. renovating this park was a ridiculous boondoggle and it makes me happy that it's being used by exactly the people they were trying to scare off.

Nicely done!  

Posted: July 9th, 2013 9:12 AM

This news item isn't the best for Oak Park PR, is it? Manages to capture our obsession with both petty rules AND complaining about spending. Brilliant!

90 year old lady from Oak Park  

Posted: July 9th, 2013 8:31 AM

My stars! These skateboarder ruffians are quite the conundrum! Why I've never been in such a tizzy in all my life! The humanity of it all! MY WORD!!!

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: July 9th, 2013 8:23 AM

Mr Farmer incorrectly states the cost of the Scoville project. It was $ 1.4M. OP incorrectly assumes overhead in the projects listed. Scoville & the Gym Ctr ($ 4.5M) have already been paid for from CIP & grant $$, i.e. no overhead. Ridgeland ($ 23M, not $ 30) bonds are being repaid partially w/operating profits. Quit inflating #'s to skew your point.If Scoville is like other PDOP projects, it came in under budget & would have a contingency to with post-design punch list items i.e. bench notches.


Posted: July 9th, 2013 1:50 AM

Resident, Yeah right, lol, this will be another excuse for the village to rip up the park and squeeze up for more taxes, only to have roller bladers abuse public property the next time around. Just let the skaters rail slide the bench to pieces, when they start sliding into traffic, they'll learn their lesson.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: July 9th, 2013 12:11 AM

Any change needed to fix the skateboard issue should be paid for by the design firm.

The dude  

Posted: July 9th, 2013 12:01 AM

John Butch Murtagh, politicians are the timeless version of the stuff the came out of the 2012 Pigeons.

The dude  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 11:58 PM

Adults Skater, you first say that skaters aren't drawn to break rules, and then go on to say that you as a skater are drawn to the bench, besides the fact it would be against the rules... IT would seem that certain skaters ARE drawn to break the rules for their gain, but isn't personal gain the drive for anyone who would brake the rules?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 11:39 PM

Skateboarders are the 2013 version of the Pigeons of 2012!

Adult Skater from OP  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 11:11 PM

I'm an adult skater and home owner in OP. I disagree that skaters are drawn to break rules, but when you put in benches that might as well have been designed as a skate obstacle (they're perfect!), then imply that skating would be fun but isn't allowed (put up a little sign), people are going to skate there.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 11:09 PM

i have to agree with the dude, if instead of using concrete the village used a path covering similar to what the arboretum uses in the parking lot the skaters would find grounds that aren't such a hassle to skating. but at the same time, i don't know if it is possible to do this and stay within ADA guidelines in a way that causes a hassle for the skaters but doesn't disenfranchise the disabled.


Posted: July 8th, 2013 10:38 PM

OPRes-I agree, but the choice was never keep the courts or eliminate them entirely. The only question raised was whether to eliminate ONE court. I understand the ship has long sailed on the matter, but let's think of more creative uses of space in our parks going forward instead of empty blue courts.


Posted: July 8th, 2013 10:05 PM

Bikes aren't allowed in the park? that's news to me.


Posted: July 8th, 2013 8:41 PM

What did we receive for $2M? The same thing you will get for $6MM for gym center and $30MM for Ridgeland. Huge overhead which inflates cost of projects and little real improvements.

The dude  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 7:40 PM

Skaters love places where they're not allowed, it's part of the fun. If you don't want skaters on your benches and sidewalks, break the smooth continuity of those surfaces, and they'll move on. It's no that hard. Telling them to stay away will only make it more appealing. If I still skated, I'd be there in a heart beat.

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 7:18 PM

The tennis community in OP is small, but very, very vocal. I do not fault the park district on this one--they held LOTS of community planning meetings and everyone had a chance to weigh in. Turns out, the tennis supporters came out in force to save the tennis courts and nobody else really argued against it at that point. Go to the planning meetings, people, otherwise you're stuck with what you get. As for the skateboarders--just put arms on the benches.

OP Resident  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 7:08 PM

Send the spoiled little brat's parents a bill for the damage just as we should do with any juvenile vandal. If he does it again give him community service. His (i.e. his parents') miniscule tax contribution toward the park doesn't cover his intentionally damaging public property. A perceived need for another skate park doesn't justify acting like an ass in a public space.


Posted: July 8th, 2013 5:44 PM

Teddy Roosevelt, you've got it right!

Teddy Roosevelt from Oak Park, Washington DC, heaven  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 5:05 PM

WachaMuntz: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions.." Cool it..


Posted: July 8th, 2013 4:58 PM

I have a much better use for tennis court space...giant putting green with multiple holes. Anyone with a putter and one golf ball can use it, open to all ages, open green space (but can be astroturf), low maintenance, just as quiet as a tennis game, leisurely activity, and offers a variety over the approx 30 tennis courts in the village today.

Barney Fife  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 4:52 PM

Given the previous skateboarder presence and the park's location on the center of the teen hangout axis of OPRF, Tasty Dog, and the Lake Theater, it seems like the park designers are at fault for ovelooking this inevitabilty when they specified the benches. Can't the benches be retrofittied with nubs as is done elsewhere to preclude skateboarders, rather than depending on our senior citizens to be bench patrol vigilantes?


Posted: July 8th, 2013 4:44 PM

In regards to the tennis courts, there was mention of an alleged "scarcity of courts in the village," which I would whole-heartedly disagree with as there are EIGHT courts a mere 3 blocks away. Now there might be a shortage of lit courts, but I find it comical that tennis gets the privilege of night-time play while the bball nets come down at dusk (we all know why). Why not lit bocce-ball or bags courts instead? Those activities are just as quiet as tennis (if noise is a concern).


Posted: July 8th, 2013 4:35 PM

a permanent band "stage," and a bunch of trees removed (a popular theme in Oak Park Park redesigns.) Oh, and the bust of Percy Julian was moved from its former place of honor at the top of the hill to an obscure area near the library. Is that it? Did I miss anything?


Posted: July 8th, 2013 4:35 PM

So far my question has generated several lovely insults, but no one has yet bothered to answer what did we get for the $2 million. Ok, let's see, we have some nice new benches, only usable by skateboarders and presumably people in wheel chairs (a friend who uses a walker was the first to complain to me they were too low), a litter box around the war memorial, more of that wretched, crumbles-within-two-years blue stone replacing the beautiful flower bed, (CONT)

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 3:57 PM

A few points...1st, the tennis courts were part of the original Jens Jensen design, and have been part of Scoville Park since its creation in 1913. The # of Park District courts village-wide has been reduced slightly through the master planning process to reflect uses changes, however the public input showed a strong desire to keep the Scoville courts. 2nd, to answer Wacha (obviously not your real name), the project cost $1.4M, half of that coming from a state grant. The changes made were well beyond cosmetic, though I suppose it's a matter of semantics and you'd not likely agree in any case. The design firm is the same one who did the work at Mills Park, and IMHO did an outstanding job in both parks. 3rd, the benches are indeed lower due to ADA compliance...4th, while maybe it seems logical to some that skateboarders will intentionally go places they aren't allowed, it doesn't mean the PDOP should design a park solely around their desire to break the law. Bikes and boards aren't allowed in the park for safety reasons. Users of each should therefore respect that notion.


Posted: July 8th, 2013 3:41 PM

I agree with the poster who asked what on earth they paid $2mil for in this park, and also, the gravel is horrible. I miss the beautiful flowers that changed with the seasons. The gravel looks like it is trying to be a cat box. Gross.

OP Resident  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 1:47 PM

I very much agree with the previous comments about the underutilized tennis courts. Scoville Park is not that large. To dedicate a large chunk of it to tennis courts which are often empty was a mistake. Better to have made it green space, or to have added it to the limited (and heavily used) kid's play area to the west, or (gasp) even to have made it a skateboard area. Overall the redesign of the park is lovely. But it should have been preceded by a careful usage study.

New to Town  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 1:44 PM

I know it's cheaper to take down the hoops in the other parks than continually replace them due to vandalism or police the area due to inconsiderate kids/young adults who play late into the night. Bottom line, abide by simple rules and be considerate. When in doubt, error toward the what seems like the ridiculous rules and feelings of others. If you don't like the rules, there are procedures to communicate your grievances. It's what called living in society.

baller from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 1:32 PM

maybe if you actually left the basketball hoops up kids could play ball instead of skate

a landscape designer  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 12:32 PM

The benches are low because they are ada compliant. There is an excellent skate park 1/2 mile away. And bikes are excluded in the parks too. I think the designers did a beautiful job with what they had to work with. OPers are never satisfied. Someone always complaining.

Bart Simpson  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 12:32 PM

And those big windows on the library look great for throwing rocks at!! I also love those unsuspecting suckers who don't lock their bikes and the fools who walk around carelessly with their iphones - easy prey!!

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 12:30 PM

I found this mildly amusing: " [b]...the impact of the skateboard on the benches make a loud, disturbing noise that reverberated through the park.[b] Oh noes! Actually, that noise is irritating as hell. I wonder why Stevenson Park was chosen for skaters? It's pretty close to Austin (gasp) and it might get a bit rough. Do the sk8rs shun it for that reason or do they prefer organic materials for their sk8ing pleasure?


Posted: July 8th, 2013 12:28 PM

Btw, love the "I pay taxes therefore I'm entitled to break the law" argument. In addition to skateboarders, douchbags should also be banned form the park.


Posted: July 8th, 2013 12:25 PM

I still want to know how they spent $2 million on a few cosmetic changes. The gravel is a huge mistake. Its ugly and a huge nuisance as it gets everywhere, and as this article notes, doesn't work as intended anyway. And the benches are too low to sit comfortably. The design firm should be ashamed.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 12:18 PM

I am also a senior and I agree that we should not be excluding skaters anymore than we should exclude bikers.

Let them skate  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 11:38 AM

Seems like a huge mistake on the part of the PD to not allow skateboarding in parks and not consider skating in the design of the new park. I don't skate. But I have a problem with not making our parks friendly to a wider variety of recreational activities.

Alan from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 11:20 AM

Actually replacing the tennis courts with a good skateboarding area might have been the way to go. (BTW I am a senior not a skateboarder)


Posted: July 8th, 2013 11:18 AM

DeJordy-Couldn't agree more. The proliferation of extremely under-utilized tennis courts in our parks remains a mystery. I would much rather see floor hockey or basketball courts in their place. Tennis takes up alot of real estate per player, requires more than one person (ie you can't just go and shoot around), pricey equipment, lessons to be remotely competent. Take all these factors into account and you have to ask what's with the PD's love affair with the sport. Just say no to tennis courts!

Tony from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 11:13 AM

We should build one of these...for the kids of course.

Violet Aura  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 10:53 AM

Why do I get the feeling that part of the sk8er philosophy is precisely the concept of skating in prohibited areas? But like DeJordy states, I think the designers of the park should have made better use of ALL spaces. And another thing: I really love what was done to Mills Park. I think it was a total makeover and for the better. I wish Scoville Park had done the same. The changes seem cosmetic at best and I would have liked to see a radical design change.

Rick from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2013 10:48 AM

I'm 38 years old, and the first thing I though when I saw those new benches was how 14 year old me would have loved to skate them. It's a pretty obvious oversight on the part of the planners of the park. It's why so many benches have arms, or something to break up the continuity of the bench, to keep skaters at bay.


Posted: July 8th, 2013 10:40 AM

What dismayed me was they kept the tennis courts, which take up a huge amount of space and often go unused. There are a bunch of courts three blocks away at the high school.

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