Change sought to protect parks

WESTFIELD – The members of the Parks and Recreation Commission took action at their meeting Monday to protect the structures in city parks from the degradations caused by the use of wheeled vehicles, especially skateboards and scooters.
The question was raised largely due to the new parks that have been created on the banks of the Westfield River in the shadows of the twin spans of the Great River Bridge and the newly rebuilt Park Square.
Sgt. Steve Dickinson, the commander of the Westfield Police Department’s community policing unit, suggested to the commission that the city ordinance which currently restricts the use of city sidewalks by vehicles which are defined as “any instrument intended to convey or transport persons or things” be extended to include walkways in city parks as well as sidewalks in the city.
At Monday’s meeting of the commission, the commissioners passed a motion to ask the city council to amend the ordinance so that the restriction currently governing the use of city sidewalks is extended to city parks.
The commission chairman, Kenneth Magarian, said after the meeting that the extension of the ordinance’s scope is desired “for parks, not playgrounds” and said that the intent of the request is to establish “something the police would have” to help them protect the granite and concrete features of the city’s newest parks.
Dickinson has said police frequently receive complaints about youths who ride their skateboards, jumping them onto steps and railings, and pointed out that, while the damage each skateboarder makes may be minuscule, the cumulative effect of the chips and scratches is significant to structures that will be in place for decades.
“We don’t want people ruining our $30 million or whatever project” he said.
Dickinson has urged his fellow officers, when dealing with skateboard complaints, to issue city ordinance violation citations and to seize the skateboards as evidence.
City Councilor James Adams, the council liaison with the commission, said that the commission’s request will be presented to the council as new business and he expects it to be referred to the Legislation and Ordinance Committee, which he is a member of, for study.
“That’s the place to address it” he said.
When asked, he said that the L&O Committee members will probably take a broader look at the ordinance since, as currently written, it would seem to prohibit children from riding tricycles, roller skates or other toys on sidewalks.
He said that it is safer for youths to ride skateboards on sidewalks than in the roadways but also said that skateboarders on downtown sidewalks can be a hazard for pedestrians and those exiting stores who may find themselves suddenly in the path of an approaching skateboarder.
He said “Maybe were should get a couple of those skateboard people there (at the L&O meeting)” to hear their concerns and interests.
He said that he plans to “make sure we get it right.”

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