Visitors and young skaters watch a veteran in the Vashon skate bowl at BARC the weekend of its grand opening in January, 2015. (Susan Riemer/Staff Photo)

Visitors and young skaters watch a veteran in the Vashon skate bowl at BARC the weekend of its grand opening in January, 2015. (Susan Riemer/Staff Photo)

VPD considers structured hours at skate park amid vandalism, drug reports

The Vashon Park District is considering bringing back supervised sessions at the Burton Adventure Recreation Center after multiple break-ins and a recent discovery of drug paraphernalia.

Since the fall of 2013, the facility has been open from dawn to dusk for free skating without structured supervision. Before 2013, only supervised skate sessions with paid staff were offered during limited hours, and the facility was closed when staff was not there. The change to free skating with no staff was a cost-saving measure approved by the park district board amid decreasing numbers of skaters and revenue. But now, reports of repeated break-ins, stolen security cameras and the discovery of drug paraphernalia have officials considering a return to supervised sessions.

“What really tipped this over the edge was this report from a mother that her 10-year-old son found vaping paraphernalia,” Vashon Park District Executive Director Elaine Ott-Rocheford said at last Tuesday’s park board meeting. “The security cameras were stolen multiple times. We need to think of staffing it again; we are at our wits’ end.”

But Jenni Wilke, one of the parents who has been involved with the facility since its inception as part of the BARC Stewardship Council, said she would be sad to see the facility return to limited operation. She said she feels like the facility gets wrongfully targeted because of the stigma around skate parks and those who use them.

“There were just as many break-ins when there was supervision,” she said. “I don’t think (supervised sessions) would solve any of the issues.”

VPD board members were supportive of the prospect and board chair Karen Gardner said that while the district “may get pushback” for locking the facility again, it has become necessary.

“That’s going to have to be how it is,” she said. “It is becoming a larger hazard keeping it open without supervision.”

She said she plans on opening up discussions with the stewardship council, but doesn’t feel like the district can rely on volunteers to keep the facility safe.

“We need to find money to get staff out there to monitor,” she said. “Using volunteers hasn’t been successful, but they do play a valuable role.”

BARC includes a small indoor skate park, a BMX bike track, a nine-hole Frisbee golf course and an outdoor skatepark. The outdoor area was completed in 2015, years after VPD received a grant from King County for the project and after VPD instituted free, unsupervised use of the facility.

The topic of returning the facility to limited, supervised use will be on the agenda for the board’s July 25 meeting. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at the Ober Park meeting room. Meetings are always open to the public.

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