Help Peninsula teens succeed with their new park

A member of the Long Beach City Council recently wrote a letter to the editor chastising the youths who use the skatepark recently built through donations from the city, as well as other outside sources, at Culbertson Park.

The councilman said he was "terribly disappointed" when he went by the new park and found it was dirty. There was trash in the area, including "drink bottles, broken chairs, broken glass, an apparently used condom and many, many cigarette butts."

After reading this I decided that I would see for myself what the situation actually was, so I walked around the entire Culbertson Park.

I did find trash at the skatepark. I found cigarette butts, I found an empty drink cup, I even found an empty bottle of "Alien Drool liquid sour candy." I also found the infamous "used condom." In fact, I found four of them - over at the baseball field.

However, I was "terribly disappointed" when I saw that the trash can placed at the skate park by the city was overflowing. The kids were putting their garbage in the can, but the can hadn't been dumped in what looked like well over a week or two. This surprised me after finding the garbage cans at the softball field, baseball field, and basketball courts at Culbertson Park all had new trash bags inside.

Cigarette butts? A quick tour of the softball field, bleachers and dugouts found at least twice as many as the skate park, if not more all over the ground. On top of that, there were a bevy of beer bottle caps, candy wrappers, sport drink containers - three of which were actually on the field - and a little green plastic frog (which the owner can claim at the Chinook Observer office).

The letter to the editor continued by saying, "I am not so foolish to believe that all skaters are the problem." That's a good thing, because a 10-minute tour of Culbertson Park finds that it isn't just the skateboard kids that are causing the mess.

So why was this councilman touring the new skate park? Perhaps to find a way out of supporting it further. In his letter, he said he was one of the council members who responded to the "community pressure" to build the park.

Now, I thought that building the park was a way for the city to positively affect the lives of youth in the community who may not want to play baseball. To give them something to do, show that they care about the youth. It's starting to look now like it was just a way to shut some people up.

The councilman also said that after taking his tour of the skatepark, he was now questioning his commitment to the project.

Why? Because it was dirty?

Why not say, "Let's clean up the whole park?" Perhaps look at the whole park and not try to put the blame all on these kids? It seems the softball crowd that comes to town each weekend should be held to the same standard and level of "disappointment," shouldn't they?

In fact, the City of Long Beach passed an ordinance of regulations that had to be abided by while using the skateboard park last month. And although there are some good things contained within, it makes you wonder why they are only interested in seeing these regulations enforced by those who use the skatepark. Why isn't the softball crowd, for example, held to these same standards? Is it because they come into town and spend money? In fact, that crowd doesn't even have state laws enforced against them.

I called City Hall last week to find out if there was a city ordinance or law against drinking in public. I was told that there was no such ordinance - there didn't have to be - it was already a state law.

So why aren't the softballers ever busted for drinking Coors Light as if it were Gatorade at the park? I sat at my desk one Saturday and watched a man outside my window hand nearly 10 beers to his female companion before walking over to play. If the city is so concerned about having a "clean" image in Culbertson Park, shouldn't that be looked at as well? Do people ever curse while playing softball? I don't know about anybody else, but the last time I went to a ballgame there were a lot of kids around.

Now, I want to make it perfectly clear what I'm trying to say here. I am not trying to make excuses for the skateboard kids or shift the blame to the other groups that use the park. I wish everyone who uses the park would take responsibility for cleaning up their own damn mess and not try to blame someone else for something that is a park-wide problem.

Yes, the skate park is new and should be cleaner than it is, but they could also use their trash can changed out once a week. Yes, there are some bad seeds that have popped up over there, but you find those everywhere - including on ball fields. The councilman should open his eyes a little bit and see the big picture.

As the one-year anniversaries of the teen suicides that happened last year pass, he should remember why it is that the skate park was built - for the kids to have something to do. Don't be so petty as to drop your support of the project just because there was some trash at the new facility.

Maybe he should go back another time, when the kids are actually there and talk to them, rather then reporting to the city council his "findings" or writing a faceless letter to the newspaper tattling on them. Communication with the kids could probably go a long way towards having a clean park.

Damian Mulinix is a Chinook Observer reporter/photographer and Long Beach resident.

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