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Published: Wednesday, 6/18/2008

Sylvania skate park discussion scheduled Monday

BY MIKE JONES
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

The design and scope of a proposed skate park for the Sylvania community will be discussed at a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Sports & Exhibition Center at Tam-O-Shanter, 7060 Sylvania Ave.

George France, president of the board of the Sylvania Area Joint Recreation District, said the meeting will concern only the way a park should be designed and not its location.

"We aren't there yet," Mr. France said.

Residents near Memorial Park objected last month to Sylvania City Council about the possibility of the park being built there.

They complained that, among other things, it would bring too many people and too much traffic into the area.

Memorial Park is one of a number of sites under consideration, but district officials have said no decision has been made, nor is there a timetable for when a location will be named.

One factor which favors Memorial Park is that it is near the downtown where youngsters sometimes use skateboards, causing complaints from business owners.

Gerald Sobb, chief of Sylvania police, said his department receives a number of complaints every year, primarily from business owners in the city's downtown.

The complaints are often about trespassing, prompted by pedestrians being upset by youngsters on skateboards, in-line skates, or smaller trick bicycles.

Other complaints involve damage to metal handrails, concrete planters, and other items that are used for tricks.

Most of the young people don't mean to cause the harm, the chief said, but that doesn't keep it from happening.

From a strictly law-enforcement perspective, he said, a skate park would be welcome.

He said officers would rather be able to tell offenders that there is an alternative place for them, rather than just get them off the sidewalk.

Chief Sobb added that in prior years police have sent youngsters away with a warning, but this year they have issued citations to repeat offenders.

He said the department so far has probably issued fewer than 10 notices, but the change in enforcement seems to have had some effect. Citations require a juvenile to appear in juvenile court.

Keith Haddad, president of City Council and a member of the recreation district board, said the objections he has heard to the location of a skate park are similar to complaints people made before the university/parks hike-bike trail was constructed between the University of Toledo to King Road.

"Now people put gates in their back yard fences so they can use it. It's always clean and you never hear of any trouble," he noted.

It is likely that the recreation district will hold a public meeting once a potential site is determined so neighbors can discuss the matter.

He added that board members will have to determine the type and design for the park before they look for a site.

Its size, parking, and a desire for acreage large enough to expand if warranted will be considerations, he said.

Aaron Spohn, of Spohn Ranch Skate Parks, Inc., of Los Angeles, a major designer of skate parks, is scheduled to be at Monday's meeting. He will discuss new trends in skate parks and their impact on communities.

His firm has built more than 400 parks across the country and he said in an earlier visit to Sylvania that the first step is always to discuss the issue with the community and to learn from prospective users what features they are interested in having.

Mr. Spohn was here last year to discuss the issue with City Council.

At the time he told council, "If your town doesn't have a skateboard park, it is one."



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