Illegal activity closes skate park

William Camargo/ Daily Titan

A Fullerton skate park that opened in 2000 has been closed since 2010 due to numerous issues over the course of the decade, including illegal drug sales, drug consumption and graffiti.

A police investigation of the skate park in Independence Park on West Valencia Drive in Fullerton led to five felony arrests and prompted the city council to close the park.

After the state of the economy left the city with little funds to reinvent the park and improve its image, the skate park was closed longer than expected. However, a community meeting in February showed Fullerton City Council members that public interest in reopening the skate park had been surging for a while.

The illegal activity that occurred in Independence Park was allegedly due, in part, to the design and location of the skate park.

The park’s restricted views and access paths enabled park visitors conducting illegal activity to spot any police or staff in the area, according to a powerpoint presentation shown at a Fullerton Parks and Recreation Commission in February.

A low fence that surrounded the park made it impossible to enforce any hours of operation. People would jump over the fence when the park was closed.

The expense to clean the frequent graffiti off of the skate park ramps was also increasing. It cost $14,000 during the 2009-2010 fiscal year to remove graffiti from the park.

Options for the future of the park include reopening the skate park without any supervision or continuing the temporary closure of the park and building another skate park amenity at another location.

Aaron Orozco, recreation manager, hopes the reopening will bring a new, pleasant environment to Fullerton.

“The city hopes that reopening the skate park will contribute to a healthy, safe and engaged neighborhood and to the overall skateboard community,” said Orozco.

The city recently began accepting applications for residents to be part of a volunteer ad hoc committee to support the reopening and future development of the skate park at Independence Park.

The committee would work with the Fullerton’s Parks and Recreation (P&R) staff and would have many responsibilities, including recruiting others to help enforce the park’s operating hours, promoting the park and raising funds to support the operations.

P&R is working closely with the Fullerton Skateboard Association (FSA) to reopen the park.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with the Fullerton (skateboard) Association in hopes that we can unite in our efforts to provide alternatives for our youth to participate in an activity that they love,” Orozco said.

The FSA is composed of parents, community members and skateboarders with the common goal of reopening and maintaining the Independence Skate Park, according to the FSA Facebook page.

Isaac Davis, 38, has been a part of the Orange County community for 15 years and is the spokesperson for the FSA.

“The community can be excited about this for many reasons, the simplest of which is that we are trying to create a better environment for us all. With the community’s involvement, we can create change for the better and create a pleasurable park atmosphere that members of all ages of the community will be welcome to enjoy,” said Davis.

On May 14, Davis and the FSA will be presenting a slideshow concerning the immediate reopening and future development of the skate park. They have been working closely with P&R to create the best possible ways to prevent the problems that plagued the park in the past.
P&R is also working closely with the police department to ensure they are working to avoid the illegal activity that occurred at the park before it closed.

“We are currently identifying people within the police department that can assist us in our efforts and help us gain a perspective that only they can bring. We are looking at key personnel in the Community Services Bureau and Patrol,” Orozco said.

Matthew Bahenn, 17, who lives near the skate facility and has been going to the facility for a long time, appreciates the effort that is being made by the community to keep graffiti and other issues out of the park.

“Yeah, it’s good that they got rid of (the graffiti) because it’s our skate park, and we should be taking care of it,” said Bahenn.

About Hailey Moran