Last week, city officials in San Clemente, California, abruptly decided to dump 37 tons of sand on a popular skatepark to prevent local skaters from gathering during the coronavirus pandemic.
The city argued that the action was necessary to enforce social distancing guidelines when they heard some skaters were still using the park after it was temporarily closed. But others called the move an overreach — and one with unintended consequences.
“Some kids are very blessed and come from great homes, but on the flip side there are kids who don’t come from good homes and there are some skaters who might fall into that category,” said Stephanie Aguilar, president of the San Clemente SkatePark Coalition, in an interview with TheBlaze. “For those kids, the skatepark was an outlet.”
Aguilar, whose nonprofit raised $50,000 to install lights in the park last year, said that after the city shut down local beaches and trails, the skatepark was one of the last remaining activities for kids to do.
“They might feel like they have nowhere to go,” she said while also noting that similarly drastic actions have not been taken to prevent people from gathering on the city’s tennis courts or other recreational areas. “It feels like there’s a double standard when it comes to skateboarding.”
Still others used the park as an outlet not to escape their home situations but for much-needed exercise.
“His last bit of freedom,” Jen Stark remarked to the Orange County Register in reference to her son after the two approached the sand-filled park last week. She noted that he is diabetic and needs to stay moving.
“It was all he had left. He was devastated,” Stark said.
San Clemente city officials fill skatepark with sand to prevent skaters from using it
During the interview, Aguilar was careful to note that the city owns the park and so officials certainly had the right to close it. But she wondered if filling the park with sand to enforce the law went too far, and suggested that “it could’ve been done a different way.”
“There was no warning given before the sand was placed in the park,” she said. “It seems that the city could’ve utilized its own social media or reached out to us” before taking the action. She noted that her coalition has significant reach within the local skating community and could have helped the effort.
Ultimately, the sand dump was to no avail. Within days, local skaters descended on the park and used it as a dirt bike track. Then they dug up the sand and continued skating. Aguilar did not condone the skaters actions, but admitted that “it isn’t surprising” that the skaters would respond in that way.
The move to fill the park with sand was just the latest in a string of increasingly aggressive measures taken by state and local governments to enforce social distancing in their jurisdictions. Those measures have resulted in more and more protests across the country. Unfortunately, amid the uproar, stories about the negative effects such measures have on those who don’t have good home situations are often overlooked.