POSTED: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 12:45pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 5:35pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — The possible closure of a skate park in Vinton, La is uniting skateboarders into action all across the state. Here in Baton Rouge, a petition has been created and a plan to help is being formulated.
On Friday, Feb. 24 the Vinton Chief of Police announced that the town’s only skate park would be closed for 90 days due to a violent fist fight that was caught on camera. The incident happened between three juveniles ranging in age from 8 to 13-years old.
Due to the extreme nature of the video, city officials shut down the park, which has experienced continued problems in regards to supervision. The future of the park will be determined on May 21, 2012, when city officials plan hold a review.
Here in Baton Rouge, skateboarders are uniting to try and help the small town keep its skate park.
“I know where Vinton is, and I know that there are very few things for kids in that area do,” Chris Culotta, local skateboarder and owner of Heartthrob Skateboards, told NBC33 News. “That’s all those kids have there and it’s getting overrun by bad people, but the skateboarders are not the ones causing the problems.”
Culotta is a long time skateboard enthusiast and activist. He says the biggest problem skateboarders have faced in decades prior is the false perception that they are out to cause trouble.
“When I first read the story that they were considering closing the park, it made me angry,” Culotta admitted. “It’s kind of like we’re getting pushed to the side again. We’re always fighting a battle of stereotypes, and we’re always getting pushed to the side because we’re skateboarders.”
Culotta, who has worked to help open other skate parks in the area, says that skateboarding is a productive activity that typically helps keep kids out of trouble, not the other way around.
“We’re trying to get these kids something safe and positive to do.”
As a way of calling attention to the situation, Culotta, along with other skateboarders in the area, created a petition and Facebook page . The petition was created just 24-hours ago and has already gained 132 signatures.
“We’re planning on taking the petition to the meeting on May 21 to show city officials that this is something that’s important,” Culotta noted. “But even before that, we want to go up there and try and get these kids organized and let them lead the charge.”
Culotta admits that the only way to save the park is by empowering the kids who want to keep it a positive, fun place to hang out.
“It’s really their park,” he said. “It’s up to them to open it back up.”
However, Culotta also notes that it will take some effort from the town as well.
“I don’t know how big the police department is there, so they may have bigger issues to worry about, but they need to look at providing more supervision at the park, too.”
Over the next several weeks, skateboarders plan to make sure this issue isn’t one that falls to the wayside. Rather, they hope to serve as building-blocks for the kids of Vinton to stand on to prevent violence and crime in a place that should be safe.
“I ultimately started this [Facebook] page to garner attention for the kids of Vinton,” Culotta added. “Everyone needs to work a little closer and harder to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”