Alex Raad is tired of being told to scram.
The Barrington High School senior has, for the last few years, heard local shop owners and police officers tell him and his friends to take their bike riding or skateboarding someplace else. Often that means heading over to some other town’s skate park or out to Taunton, Mass. for an indoor facility in that community.
Now, Alex is determined to change all that.
For the last few months, the local teenager has been formulating a plan to bring a skate and bike park to the Legion Way ice rink. Alex has attended some Barrington Park and Recreation Commission meetings and researched the costs associated with building a park. He has also spoken with the volunteer group that helped recondition the Legion Way rink.
“The process is really hard,” Alex said during a recent interview.
But the pay-off is worth it, he added. In fact, Alex said there are a lot of local kids — young and old — who support the construction of a skate park. He said he has had the idea since he was a freshman in high school, but recently decided to pursue the project as part of the mandatory senior project.
So far, Alex has rallied some key support. In addition to the Legion Way ice rink volunteers, he has also recruited assistance from professional BMX biker Kevin Robinson and won endorsements from members of the park and recreation commission. A key hurdle awaits with the Barrington Town Council, however, as well as the challenge of raising the $50,000 or so to purchase the necessary skate park equipment.
“Me and my friends, we’re tired of getting kicked out of places,” Alex said. “There’s nowhere for us to go.”
That point took center stage at the Dec. 2 town council meeting.
About half-way through the meeting, Barrington Police Chief John LaCross approached the council with some suggested alterations to a local ordinance governing disorderly conduct. Chief LaCross asked the council to approve one part of the language regarding willful trespassing; he said the current statute said trespassers can be notified by land owners, but he wanted to give some power to his officers, so they too could alert people who are illegally trespassing on other’s property.
Chief LaCross cited an ongoing issue with teenagers hanging out in the parking lot behind Rite Aid or next to Shaw’s or behind the Daily Scoop ice cream shop. He said his officers often confront skateboarders or bikers and disperse the crowd, only to see them gather again in the same space a short while later.
“This gives a little more authority to the police officer,” Chief LaCross said during the meeting.
In a follow-up interview, the police chief said he fully supports having a skate park in Barrington, although he questioned the liability concerns surrounding a park.
“Right now there’s no place for them to go, no place to hang out,” Chief LaCross said.
Walter Burke faced the same dilemma about 15 years ago.
The director of the Bristol Recreation Department was constantly hearing complaints from local shop owners and town officials about teenagers skateboarding on both public and private property. At the same time, he could understand the frustration of the teens who were regularly being told to “take a hike.”
Mr. Burke decided to do something about the situation and eventually constructed the first municipal skate park in Rhode Island. The facility — it features concrete ramps and other structures — is located inside Colt State Park.
Liability insurance was an issue then also, so Mr. Burke approached a representative from the Rhode Island Interlocal Trust, the organization that insures most municipalities in the state. Relying heavily on what some other states had already created, Mr. Burke drafted the first specifications regarding skate parks.
Now, more than a dozen cities and towns in Rhode Island have municipal skate parks, including one in Pawtucket that thoroughly impressed Mr. Burke.
“In my opinion, that one’s the best around,” he said.
Alex Raad said he is hopeful that Barrington officials and volunteers can strike a deal with the Legion Way location. He said he would like to see movable equipment installed at the rink during the warm weather months and then stored off the surface when winter sets in.
Last Wednesday afternoon, as the temperature started to drop, Alex and a friend met at Legion Way to do some bike riding. They jumped their bikes onto large rocks that surround the rink and then paused to think about the park that could be: “That would be great,” Alex said. “This would be perfect.”