In response to a number of safety concerns at the new Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park, the Turlock Police Department hosted a community meeting Thursday informing local skaters and their parents on the park’s rules and regulations.
Around 20 skaters and a few parents made their way to Donnelly Park Area C, located just west of the skate park, on Thursday evening as acting Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar, park’s department Supervisor Erik Schulze and Turlock Police Captain Steve Williams were on hand to educate the public on the Turlock Municipal Code and the proper use of the skate park. Issues including skaters not wearing helmets, lack of parental supervision, incidents of bullying, graffiti and the use of bicycles at the park prompted the meeting and another to be held on Saturday, said Amirfar.
“The reasons for these meetings – this one and the one on Saturday – is to ensure that everyone understands the proper use of the skate park for everyone’s safety,” said Amirfar. “This meeting is for us to come and give you an overview of the rules and what the expectations are of the kids that are here and of the adults. It’s your responsibility to ensure that your children are adhering to the rules.”
The rules of the park are identified on a safety sign at the park’s entrance, however, Amirfar expressed concern that the rules are not being followed. Bicycles are prohibited at the skate park, helmets are required at all times and children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult while at the skate park – all rules that Amirfar witnessed skaters breaking while recently visiting the park.
According to Amirfar, the time between the public meetings and the skate park’s grand opening ceremony on Sept. 24 will be treated as an “educational period,” meaning that warnings rather than citations will be handed out. Following the educational period, an enforcement system will be put into place, beginning first with a probationary period for those who disobey the rules, followed by punishment such as park cleanup upon the second offense and ending ultimately with a citation upon the skater’s third offense.
“I don’t want my officers coming out here and giving kids tickets. I want parents and guardians to take responsibility to ensure that their kids are acting appropriately and following the rules,” said Amirfar.
One concern that the police department hopes to directly assist with is the issue of skaters not wearing helmets. The department will be handing out protective gear, including helmets and pads, at the skate park’s grand opening ceremony. Amirfar explained that instead of using available grant money for more police equipment, the department wanted to provide safety gear for children who were unable to afford it.
The park was designed specifically for skateboards and inline skates, Amirfar told the crowd, meaning that the use of bicycles or scooters is prohibited at the park. One parent in attendance at the meeting, Pete Kirchhoff, explained that his 13-year-old son enjoys riding his bicycle at the park.
“I would just like to ask that you would consider the possibility of bikes being allowed here in the park,” said Kirchhoff. “There are many skate parks were bikes and skateboards coexist very well.”
Kirchhoff also brought to the attention of Amirfar the existence of Assembly Bill No. 1146, which was signed into law by the California State Legislature on Aug. 17, 2015. The bill is an amendment to the existing Health and Safety Code regarding skate parks, changing the language from applying only to skateboards to all wheeled recreational devices, effectively including bicycles. The amendment went into effect Jan. 1 of this year.
Amirfar stated that after he looks over the bill and concludes whether or not a rule change needs to be made, the park’s department will consider changes to the Turlock Municipal Code, which currently prohibits bicycles from being in the skate park.
Bullying and other behavioral issues were also addressed at the meeting, with Schulze informing those in attendance that cursing, swearing, drinking and smoking would not be tolerated at the park moving forward.
“We’ve only been open a couple of weeks and we’re already experiencing things that aren’t appropriate and aren’t acceptable,” said Schulze. “I’ve heard people aren’t treating each other fairly out here and that it’s not a family environment. (Brandon Koch) was a steward of the skate park. He stood up for the users and for the young kids… he made sure that the park was somewhere they could be and now I’m quite embarrassed after three weeks that his name is on here and that I’ve heard so many complaints about people being mistreated.”
Donna Kirchhoff, who attended the meeting with her husband Pete, said that she frequents the park with her son and the behavior displayed has appalled her.
“I hear more f-bombs here then I do during an entire month, and I work in a public school,” she said.
Another informational meeting will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, once again at Donnelly Park Area C. Those with questions or concerns about the skate park or its regulations are encouraged to attend.