As the winter solstice approaches and days become shorter, a group of Turlock residents are imploring the City of Turlock to install lighting at the Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park so that they can stay longer and feel safer.
Turlock resident and skateboarding enthusiast Jacob Linderman frequents the city’s skate park, located at Donnelly Park, but has to travel to neighboring towns during the fall’s shorter days in order to skate past dark. The skate parks in Oakdale, Ceres and Waterford all have lights, he said, meaning he and others of all ages are able to skateboard, bike and scooter in a well-lit area even after the sun goes down.
Seeing parks in other cities inspired Linderman to speak at the Oct. 26 Turlock City Council meeting, where he asked for consideration of his idea to illuminate the skate park. This would help stop kids and adults from skating where they aren’t supposed to at night, he told the Council, as well as curb any illicit activities taking place in the dark at the park.
Others have joined the cause since, including BMX rider Nigel Triplett who spoke on the topic during the Nov. 9 City Council meeting. Now, Linderman and Triplett are working together to try and raise awareness for their cause.
“We always said how nice it would be to have lights out at the park, so one night I just looked up when the next City Council meeting was and decided to go,” Linderman said. “We're just trying to get as many people in the community involved with it as we can.”
They’ve even organized a toy drive and BMX jam session set to take place this Saturday, aptly named “Bring the Lights!” in hopes to spread their message about the need for lights at the park.
“If we’re going to try and do something for the community, we want to be able to give to the community, too,” Triplett said.
Many of the advocates for skate park lights are in their 20s, Triplett said, and can’t find time for the park during the day between work and school. He believes lights at the park would also provide a safe place for teens and older children who may not head straight home from the park once the sun sets.
In fact, the group is advocating for lights at all Turlock parks, not just the skate park.
“Despite Donnelly Park being right in the middle of Turlock, it's really not a safe spot at night. I'm 26 and my friends are all over 21 but we don't feel comfortable there at night,” Triplett said. “I feel like if the lights were there, there'd be a lot less mischievous activity going on and a lot more productive, safe and fun activity — and that goes for all of the parks in Turlock, not just Donnelly.”
In order for City staff to take a look at illuminating Turlock’s parks, the Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Department would need to receive direction to do so from the City Council. Current skate park hours are 7 a.m. to dusk. The City Council voted in 2018 to change the hours so that all parks closed by nightfall in order to curtail vagrancy and public safety issues taking place at the time.
The Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park was relocated from its old location on Starr Avenue to Donnelly Park in the summer of 2016. Despite initial issues, including safety concerns like bullying and graffiti, a series of community meetings held at the park by the City that summer resulted in a drastic reduction in problems.
Now, the space is incredibly important to the community who utilizes it — no matter what they’re riding.
“To me, riding my bike is one of the best ways I can creatively express myself and be happy,” Triplett said. “Just because we're a little older and we're having fun on skateboards or bikes, we shouldn't be looked at differently.”
“Having lights at the park would really make it feel more like home, even though it already is home for a lot of us,” Linderman said.
The “Bring the Lights!” toy drive and BMX jam will take place Saturday at the skate park located on the southwest side of Donnelly Park. Toy donations will be accepted from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and the BMX jam will take place from noon to dark.