By MARK TODD - firstname.lastname@example.org
Plans to salvage a condemned house may have pulled Conneaut’s municipal skate park from the brink of extinction.
The municipal park at the east end of Jefferson Street has been padlocked most of the summer after numerous complaints of bad behavior. City officials were expected to order it permanently closed.
Recently, however, officials learned a long-vacant house that abuts the facility will soon be repaired and occupied by a family. That news has the city considering a reprieve for the 10-year-old park. The house was a hiding place for illicit activity and may have been a magnet that attracted a criminal element to the location, officials said at Monday’s City Council finance/ordinance committee meeting.
“The house was where a lot of the troubles began,” said Ward 3 Councilman Richard McBride.
City Manager Tim Eggleston said the house-buyer has already begun making improvements. A shed on the property has been demolished and new windows will be installed, he said. The owner also plans to install a fence between the park and her property, Eggleston said.
“She’s gung-ho,” he said. “(Someone) living next door may soften up the area.”
Administrators may also remove at least one section of fence that enclosed the park, believing an open approach may make the facility more inviting and less like a compound. Equipment in the park, including ramps and rails, would have to be secured to make sure they were not stolen, Eggleston said.
Some council members were willing to give the park another chance — if changes were made.
“A part of the problem may be the way (the park) is set up,” said Ward 1 Councilman Doug Hedrick. “I’m against re-opening the park as is. Perhaps if there were some modifications.”
Councilman-at-large Neil LaRusch was also mildly skeptical, saying he was leery of sinking more money into a facility “that already has two strikes against it.”
The skate park was created in 2003 on land cleared years earlier to accommodate the Broad Street underpass.