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Battle Ground officials debate about park fence after vandalism

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published:
6 Photos
The fence surrounding the Battle Ground skate park sits ripped open at its northwest corner on Friday.
The fence surrounding the Battle Ground skate park sits ripped open at its northwest corner on Friday. (Joshua Hart/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A fence has caused some offense in Battle Ground.

City officials placed a permanent chain-link fence around the Battle Ground skate park at Fairgrounds Park, 912 E. Main St., late last year. The fence is meant to allow the city to close off the site between dusk and dawn, an issue that became more pressing due to COVID-19.

Installing the fence around the 25,000-square-foot park cost $40,000 — entirely from federal CARES Act funding.

The city council unanimously approved the funding in July. The fence was part of a $2.4 million budget amendment that included 15 other items with city, state and federal dollars.

But City Councilor Brian Munson said the fence still made him uneasy.

“I don’t believe the government should be taking public land and fencing it in. It creates safety concerns,” Munson said.

When the city posted updates as the fence was being installed last year, several commenters asked whether the dollars could be better spent elsewhere. It also sparked debate about social distancing requirements, and some commenters said people would attempt to enter the park anyway.

Then, on May 12, Battle Ground police spotted damage to a section of the fence on the back side of the park in the northwest corner. Someone, after hours, had clipped the fence just enough to get through.

The police department identified three juvenile suspects, Chief Mike Fort said at a May 17 council meeting. The case remains under investigation.

At the meeting, Munson asked City Manager Erin Erdman to provide an estimate of the repair costs before the next city council meeting. Erdman said Friday that the city is awaiting an estimate from a fence company.

Some councilors suggested that city dollars should not be used in the repairs.

“It shouldn’t be the position of the city to fix the fence. It should be the position of whomever those children’s parents, guardians,” Deputy Mayor Philip Johnson said. “If my children, of which I have none, broke something, then I would assume that the city would sue me as their parent.”

Erdman said the source of the funding will not be determined until the police investigation wraps up and the city speaks with its insurance company.

“Depending on the children, we may get paid or we may not,” Erdman said at the meeting.

Among best skate parks

The city built the skate park in 2007, and it draws visitors from around the region.

It includes areas suited for beginners and more experienced skaters alike and has several unique features that replicate the experience of street skating. The Seattle Times once ranked it the second-best skate park in the state.

It has also been a site of criminal disturbances. In 2007, police received 280 calls to the park; 25 arrests were made on allegations ranging from malicious mischief to drugs and underage possession of alcohol.

Then-Police Chief James McDonald said the skate park brought the highest number of calls in the city, primarily due to the large number of people who flock there in warm months. The city eventually paid about $30,000 to install security cameras.

Now, nearly 15 years later, it also includes a slightly damaged fence.

“I can’t think of other local skate parks that have fences around them,” Munson said. “It’s kind of oddball.”

Columbian county government and small cities reporter

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