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Youth work with city to allow bikes, scooters at skatepark

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Brandon Johnson, a Junior at Scappoose High School, said his friends have been instrumental in helping him work with the city to allow bikes at the skatepark. Pictured left to right: Adam Crafton, Tyler Jackson, Justin Inman, Grey Holmes and Brandon Johnson.Local youth packed into the Scappoose City Hall council chambers during a Monday, Sept. 16, city council meeting to show support for a handful of Scappoose High School students who voiced their opinions about the rules of the city’s new skatepark.

Brandon Johnson, a junior, expressed his opinion to the council his opinion that bikes and scooters should be allowed at the skatepark.

“I always knew I wanted to be involved in how everything went down,” Johnson said after the meeting.

Several also presented a petition with 25 signatures for the city to allow scooters at the skatepark.

Current city ordinance restricts bicycles and scooters within the park, but council decided to grant a “trial period” to allow bikes and scooters over the next two months as long as Johnson and Donovan Jackson, another SHS student highly involved with the skatepark, provide monthly reports to council about the how the trial period works out.

Scappoose City Manager Jon Hanken said the city is also open to allowing bikes and scooters on certain days of the week, while allowing skateboards and rollerblades on other days. Hanken said in an earlier interview with the Spotlight the main issue with bikes at the skatepark has been the liability caused by their higher speeds.

Donna Gedlich, Scappoose city councilor, asked how the separation would be enforced, noting that signs explaining park rules have been vandalized in the past. “We’ve spent hundreds of thousand of dollars to appease 20 kids, and we’re not getting any kind of thank you or appreciation and you kids go up there and you argue and you fight and the other night when I was at a meeting up here, two kids were out here fist-fighting, right here in the parking lot, in the dark, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘It’s only been open 10 days,’ and is this how you kids are gonna act over here?” Gedlich said.

Parents in the room disagree with Gedlich’s assessment and began speaking out of turn, one stating, “That’s not fair. Those aren’t our kids.”

Johnson said he had seen parks with the rules painted onto the cement, adding that he would be willing to paint the rules himself. Johnson said he and his friends have been picking up trash daily at the skatepark.

Matthew Fluegge, chief operations manager with Grindline Skateparks—the company contracted to built the park—said the main problem between bikes, skateboards and rollerblades is maintaing a level of respect between the groups.

“I would just like to say that right now, we are coexisting.” said Scappoose Police Lt. Norm Miller, who is the acting commander of the police department as Chief Doug Greisen is on paid leave. “Without the signs posted, it’s hard to enforce, but they are coexisting and it’s working.”

The park, Fluegee said, has a more “linear flow” than most, meaning users are mostly traveling in one of two directions, rather than following a variety of possible routes which could cause accidents.

Fluegge added that metal pegs on bikes can also damage the park.

Johnson said he and the bikers he knows use plastic pegs or no pegs at all.

At the skatepark on Tuesday, Johnson said, “We’re under a microscope. Anything bad will come back on us. It’s a lot of pressure.”

“I know it’s only a trial period,” Johnson added, “but it won’t end here. I’ll keep going on.”

Hanken said, for now, the city will not enforce current bike and scooter rules, but he still needs to take the issue up with the city’s insurance carrier.