RUPERT — Just months after a multi-million-dollar project to refurbish Rupert Square, the new centerpiece fountain has several hundred dollars in damages.
The city is responding by banning skateboarders from the area.
City officials enacted an ordinance banning skateboards, scooters and Rollerblades from the Rupert Square, Fremont Street and the Historic District surrounding the Square.
“Kids can still skateboard at the other parks in the city,” City Administrator Kelly Anthon said.
People are allowed to skateboard on the sidewalks, but not on city-owned railings, benches or other park features or at the senior center.
Other public areas, like the basketball, tennis and pickleball courts are also off limits, he said.
Anthon said some of the language in the ordinance may be unclear, which caused some people to complain to the city.
“We will likely work on the language in the ordinance,” he said.
The ordinance was approved during the May 29 meeting.
The ordinance gives the police department some teeth to enforce the new rules and violators can be charged with an infraction that comes with a first-offense penalty of a $25 fine. The fine for a second offense is $50, for a third is $100 and subsequent offenses can result in fines up to $500.
Roger Davis, department head for the city’s parks, said the ordinance was drafted after several hundred dollars in damages were done to the new fountain by youth on skateboards.
Skateboarders were seen in the park on several occasions, he said, but the city did not have an ordinance prohibiting them.
Davis said three of the six lights inside the fountain were smashed.
Several places in the concrete of the fountain were also chipped by the boarders in addition to damage in other parts of the park.
Youth were skateboarding on the newly refurbished stage and jumping off of it on their boards and some of the concrete at the edge of the stairs was chipped.
Vandals also spray painted a new garbage can, some concrete and there is a child’s handprint in paint on the red brick.
Youth were also seen hanging from the arch at the veteran’s memorial, Davis said.
The park improvements were paid for in part with a $3.96 million general bond approved by voters in 2017. The bond is also paying for road repairs and repairs at the senior center. The city also received grant funds and private donations.
The destruction began at the end of summer before the water was even put in the fountain, Anthon said.
“People don’t respect anything new anymore,” Davis said.
Previously the city had no rules regarding where people could ride skateboards in the city.
Anthon said the city has a small skateboard park on 11th Street and officials would like public input on how it could be improved to give people a better place to enjoy skating and skateboarding.
Davis said the city has also purchased a zip line, at a cost of $15,000, that will be installed at Lincoln Park within the next few weeks.
“The city is being very proactive and is trying to keep interesting recreational activities here,” Davis said. “We don’t want to be the bad guys.”
But, Davis said, the city can’t tolerate destruction of the parks, either.
Youth skateboarding on railings, on benches and inside fountains also presents a liability issue for the city, Anthon said.