BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Bristol needs a skatepark, city teens agree, but they differ on where it should be built.
Everybody seems to want it close to where they live and go to school.
While students at Bristol Eastern High School overwhelmingly said they wanted it across the street at Page Park – and some preferred a Chippens Hill location – teens from Bristol Central and Memorial Boulevard, its feeder school, had a different answer.
Kids from the south and west section of town chose Brackett Park, with Rockwell Park their second choice.
“It’s where all the skaters are anyway,” said Kyle Morin, sophomore at Bristol Central High School who favors Brackett Park.
“Honestly it should be near the middle of the city because people [that skate] are young and can’t drive,” said Luke Saglimbeni. He also suggested locating the skatepark near a hospital in case someone gets hurt.
Brackett Park – right in the middle of downtown Bristol – is also the choice of a city police officer and the director of the Bristol Boys and Girls Club.
Both made the argument that teens who now skateboard in town are doing it downtown. It only makes sense to put the skatepark where kids are already skating, they said.
“I see a need right downtown,” said Jim Truscio, director of the Bristol Boys and Girls Club. “That’s where I happen to see a lot of kids skateboarding.”
The Bristol police officer argued strongly for locating it in Brackett Park. The officer, who commented on the condition of confidentiality, said cops mostly kick kids out of the downtown area around Barnes Group, Webster Bank, City Hall and the mall.
“Any suggestion to put a skatepark in an outlying area is a waste of time,” the officer said. “We do not encounter anywhere near the amount of problems outside of the downtown area as we do downtown itself.”
The officer said police and teens both need the skatepark. Cops get tired of repeatedly kicking kids off private property, but don’t have anywhere to send them, he said.
“With the amount of time and paperwork it takes to process just one youth on a criminal trespass complaint, it would take half the shift to arrest all the kids trespassing on just one establishment,” the officer said.
Contrary to what teens may think, the officer said most cops don’t have a problem with skateboarders – they just get sick of chasing them away over and over again.
Building the skatepark downtown offers the advantage of added police protection, the officer said, which would help deter problems.
“We police officers talk amongst ourselves about how to solve this problem and where a park should go,” he said. “It has been the general consensus that the closer to downtown the better.”
After city park officials said they wanted to hear from Bristol teens to figure out where to put the skatepark, journalists from The Tattoo spoke with more than 40 young people on the issue.
Kids around Eastern and Chippens Hill argue that Page Park is a good place to build it because it’s near Route 6, and it has a good amount of land to develop.
“There is more space and a larger skatepark could be made,” Julie Krosnicki, a freshman at Eastern, who favors Page.
Jason Brzozowski, a sophomore at Eastern, agreed. “There is plenty of open room to build lots of stuff,” he said.
Jared Roberge, a junior at Eastern, said he likes Page because it is close to his school. A skatepark across the street would give kids something to do before and after school and during study halls, he said.
Russell Baylock, an accomplished skateboarder and a sophomore at Eastern, said he feels “very tingly” about Page Park.
Others say that the old leaf pile by Chippens Hill Middle School is an ideal spot.
Adam Brandi, 14, an Eastern freshman, likes Chippens because he said it is a larger and more secluded area.
But Naomi Graves, a sophomore at Central, said it would be mistake to build the park behind the middle school.
“They shouldn’t put the skatepark near Chippens Hill Middle School because the kids will be skipping to go to the park,” said Graves.
Kids that attend Central or Memorial Boulevard School lobbied for the downtown locations of Brackett or Rockwell Park.
Lester Warzocha, a freshman at Central likes the idea of having the skatepark built at Brackett Park.
“There is a lot of space and it’s goin’ to waste,” said Warzocha.
Truscio said he can tell where kids have been skateboarding because he sees damage to curbs and other places favored by skaters. He said he’s noticed skateboarders all over downtown, including behind the Boys and Girls Club and especially when he’s heading home after work when it’s dark.
“I don’t think their intention is to damage,” said Truscio. “But the outcome is damage. You can just see where the kids are. They’re taking advantage of skateboarding opportunities.”
Matt Coyne, a 12-year-old seventh grader at Memorial Boulevard, said Brackett Park has the advantage of being close to the Bristol Boys and Girls Club and other places kids go.
Matthew Tyrell, a seventh grader at Memorial Boulevard, would also like to see the park at Brackett.
“There’s nothing there,” Tyrell said. “It’ll attract more people.”
And for teens, said Tyrell, “It’ll be another place to go.”
According to 11-year-old Mariah LaPointe, a sixth grader at Memorial Boulevard, there isn’t much for someone her age to do at Brackett Park.
“There’s no fun there,” LaPointe said. “If they built it there, it would be more fun.”
Joe Keo, who wrote this story, is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International. Other YJI reporters who contributed were Haire, Jen Plonski, Samantha Laurer and Danielle Letourneau contributed to this story.