ROCKLAND, Maine — Jerry Radley watched Saturday morning as a city of Rockland backhoe pulled down a large section of what he and other students had worked so hard to build more than a decade ago.
“It is what it is,” Radley said of the demolition of the Rockland skate park.
The city tore down the skate park that all parties acknowledged had been allowed to deteriorate over the years.
“They have to worry about the safety of the kids,” Radley conceded. “But there are lots of memories of time spent at this park.”
Rockland City Manager James Smith said a representative from Oceanside High School East — where the skate park is located — called him on Thursday asking that the park be cleaned up prior to Tuesday’s graduation.
The structure is in such disrepair, however, that nearly all of it needed to be torn down for safety reasons, the city manager said Saturday as he and Recreation Director Rene Dorr inspected it before calling in the public works crew.
In April, Oceanside Principal Tom Forti asked for the removal of the existing park, saying it was an eyesore and a lawsuit waiting to happen. He said the park’s condition had deteriorated significantly in the past two years.
Forti had also expressed concern over the lack of monitoring at the park and that it has often been littered with trash including cigarette butts.
The skateboard park is on the grounds of what is now Oceanside East but is leased by Rockland. The lease was agreed to by Rockland and then School Administrative District 5 in 2005 for an initial five-year term. There is subsequently an annual automatic renewal unless one or both parties ask for it to end.
Neither party has made a request to end the lease.
Smith said he has invited all interested parties to attend a meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the Rockland Recreation Center to discuss how to proceed from here in getting the park rebuilt and properly maintained.
The city manager said he hopes that a design can be developed over the summer and for raising money for the project beginning in the fall.
Ken Pride, a teacher at Oceanside who worked with the students that developed the park, was also at the park Saturday morning to watch its demolition.
“All things considered, taking it down and starting from scratch may be the best thing,” Pride said.
The park was one of the most heavily used recreation facilities when it started, he said. An estimated 40 kids a day would use the skate park, the teacher said.
Dorr said that number had dropped to a handful in the past few years.
The park was the product of a four-year effort by students at the then Rockland District High School. Radley was one of those students who worked with adults to come up with a design and to plan a fundraising campaign. Rockland District High School has since been renamed Oceanside East when it consolidated with Georges Valley High School in neighboring Thomaston.
MBNA was the largest benefactor for the project, donating $200,000 for its construction which occurred in 2002. The Rockland Kiwanis also were sponsors of the project.
Radley graduated from Rockland District High School in 2003.
A group of current high school students and Pride have been meeting with city officials for more than a year on a way to properly maintain the structure. The students have held dances and hat days at school to raise $7,000 for its maintenance. That money remains in an account for future work on a skate park.
Smith said students who have been working on the maintenance fundraising were contacted Friday evening to alert them to Saturday morning’s demolition.