Skaters surprised by abrupt closing of Gonzales skate park
GONZALES - Skaters arriving at the Gonzales skate park were greeted by a sign and padlock Tuesday.
The sign says the park will be demolished and turned into the Ascension Council on Aging's new wellness center.
"I've been going to the skate park since I was 10," Dyan Collins said.
He hasn't been on a skateboard in years due to a muscular disorder but still wants it to stay open.
"There's no other skate park in this parish. There's nothing for the kids at East Ascension to do, or at St. Amant. I know kids at Dutchtown that come all the way to Gonazles to skate. It keeps ages from 13 to 20 out of trouble," Collins said.
And he's not alone.
"This is the only park in ascension parish for skating," Mason Michel said.
Kids who have been coming here for years were confused as to why the parish would do this.
"If the skate park was gone I feel like more people would just resort to skating around areas around here, like public areas that they don't want people to skate at," Trent Threeton said.
But the Council on Aging says it has good reason to want the park gone.
"This was not the place for the skate park in the beginning," COA Director Darlene Schexnayder said.
She says she has been complaining about the kids that come to the park for years.
"I personally witnessed, out of my office window, kids in a car doing drugs."
She claims they've had to spend $15,000 because of the park -- erecting a fence, repairing damages and installing security cameras.
The kids we spoke to, however, say the skaters who love this park aren't the ones abusing it.
"I don't think it's anyone that actually uses the skate park for what it's intended for. It's more the people that just come to do that kind of stuff," said Michel.
The Gonzales Police Department says they haven't had any calls about the skate park in more than a year.
"It’s been well over a year, possibly two, since we have received any complaints with regard to the skate park," Police Chief Sherman Jackson said. "When in the past we did, we would send a unit to find out what was going on and resolve those issues accordingly. This generally was as simple as asking youth to move on, which they adhered to. If the parish ever needs us to intervene in issues or complaints, we’re happy to do that but can’t if we aren’t made aware of them.”
Ascension Parish Councilman Aaron Lawler says officials are looking into possibly building a new park.
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