Officials in San Clemente draw line in the sand at local park after weeks of rule-breaking by unruly skateboarders
Officials in San Clemente officially closed the US city’s parks and recreational facilities at the beginning of April as part of a statewide stay at home order to help stop the spread of Covid-19
As part of the move, “no trespassing” signs were posted at Ralphs Skate Court.
But skaters continued to visit the site over the next fortnight, prompting officials to eventually take decisive action and dump sand all over the park’s bowls and ramps.
“On April 1, we kind of let it play out to see if users would abide by the closure,” Samantha Wylie, the city’s recreation manager for the Beaches, Parks and Recreation Department, told local news organisation the San Clemente Times.
“During that [two-week period], we saw people continue to skate the park, groups would gather, kids with their parents; it became a regular [occurrence],” she added.
“It appeared the closure was not being abided by.”
Ms Wylie also noted the decision made was similar to action taken in other cities.
“The sand was what other agencies were doing. We’re doing what other parks have done to enforce that message of social distancing,” she said, noting that some cities have used mulch, hay or sand to fill in their skate parks.
“We did consider fencing. Fencing is really difficult to get right now, and we know we’ve done fencing at the skate park before, and it just gets hopped over.
“We also considered security, but there’s a cost to that. The sand, it cost us nothing to put it in, (and) it’ll cost us nothing to remove it. So that’s why we went with that decision.”
But the measure was met with dismay from local nonprofit group the San Clemente Skatepark Coalition, which helps raise money to support the Ralphs Skate Court facility.
Stephanie Aguilar, president of the coalition, said officials failed to communicate adequately with the community before taking action and could have done more to warn skaters of what would happen if they kept showing up.
“It just seems there could have been better communication, which could have helped with the response to everybody,” Ms Aguilar told the San Clemente Times.
“That visual representation of the city dumping sand into the skate park, it almost feels like, when you look at it, the city vandalised its own park, and I think it pains people to see it.”
Ms Aguilar also accused officials of applying a double standard to the city’s skateboarding community.
“Social distancing hasn’t been followed in a lot of different areas, whether it’s on our trails, tennis courts, the basketball courts, the walking paths; we didn’t see the city dump sand on the walking trail,” she said.
“We didn’t see them dump sand onto any other sport area that’s being used. It just plays into, kind of feeds into that double standard the skate community has been treated with.”
The spat comes as recorded Covid-19 infections throughout the United States have surged past the 760,000 mark.
More than 40,000 people have died nationwide, but signs have emerged in recent days that the country is reaching the apex of the outbreak and that infection rates are slowing in some states.
California was the first place in the United States to issue stay-at-home orders, with Governor Gavin Newsom ordering the shuttering of the country’s most populous state on March 19.
There have been at least 31,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in California, and more than 1,100 people have died.