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St. Pete Beach plans to open dog park, shut trouble-plagued skate park

ST. PETE BEACH — Dogs may be okay in at least one city park, but kids on skates are about to be evicted from the city's community center.

The city's first dog park was approved by a unanimous commission vote last month.

The fenced dog run will be in Vina Del Mar Park, at 302 South Isle Drive.

But on June 14, the City Commission is expected to close a skate park that opened in 2001.

"We are just having a lot of problems with vandalism," City Manager Mike Bonfield told the commission last month.

Bonfield said misbehavior by skaters has caused problems with groups renting rooms for events at the community center at 7701 Boca Ciega Drive.

The city's Recreation Committee wants to surplus the skate park equipment and do away with the skate park.

The city at first considered and then dropped a proposal to move the skate park to Egan Park.

"If we move the skate park, we just move the problems," said Steven Hallock, Public Services director.

He said vandalism to the city's community center has reached more than $10,000.

Skaters paint graffiti on walls and continually rip open fencing in order to skate underneath the community center.

The center is frequently rented out to private parties and weddings, whose members complain about the noise and foul language.

"It is a beautiful facility and people are getting married there. The behavior at the skate park does not enhance our reputation," Hallock said.

The park has no regular supervision, but does have a surveillance camera.

Hallock said the skaters have learned to avoid the camera and wear hoodies to evade identification.

The city also considered closing the skate park in 2009 following similar problems with vandalism and misbehavior.

Skaters and skating supporters who once organized to self-police the park are no longer active, Hallock said.

Meanwhile, the city is moving ahead to open the fenced dog park requested by the Vina Del Mar Island Association, which conducted an informal survey indicating a strong interest among residents.

However, Commissioner Bev Garnett reported that some residents are unhappy with the decision.

Garnett said residents wanted to know if the city would be potentially liable if someone were bitten by a dog, whether dog owners would be cited and fined for violating provisions of the new ordinance, and whether smoking would be banned in the dog park.

Bonfield questioned why anyone would want to ban smoking in the dog park.

Garnett explained that she was "addressing" issues raised by residents. "Dogs are finicky. Smoking incites a lot of people; it might incite dogs, too."

The commission did agree the city should post a sign that includes the police department's telephone number so people could report violations.

. fast facts

Dog park rules

• Dogs can be let off leashes only within the fenced dog run.

• Dog owners must be present and are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs, which must wear their Pinellas County license tags.

• Dogs that show "aggression towards people" are banned, as are dogs that "bark persistently" and any female dog that is "in heat."

• The dog park is open only to dogs older than 4 months.

• Each dog owner is limited to having no more than two dogs at a time in the park.

St. Pete Beach plans to open dog park, shut trouble-plagued skate park 06/04/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 4, 2011 4:30am]
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