How much does it take to enforce government restrictions during the era of the coronavirus?
In San Clemente, California, the answer comes to 37 tons of sand, which the city dumped into Ralph’s Skate Court to keep kids away.
The city said it acted because despite issuing social-distancing guidelines and officially closing all parks on April 1, the skateboard park was still being used.
“On April 1, we kind of let it play out to see if users would abide by the closure,” Samantha Wylie, the recreation manager for the city’s Beaches, Parks and Recreation Department, told the San Clemente Times.
“During that [two-week period], we saw people continue to skate the park, groups would gather, kids with their parents; it became a regular [occurrence]. It appeared the closure was not being abided by.”
Wylie said the action was simply following a trend set by others.
“The sand was what other agencies were doing. We’re doing what other parks have done to enforce that message of social distancing,” she said.
She claimed that the city’s action was an efficient response.
“We did consider fencing. Fencing is really difficult to get right now, and we know we’ve done fencing at the skatepark before, and it just gets hopped over,” Wylie said.
“We also considered security, but there’s a cost to that. The sand, it cost us nothing to put it in, [and] it’ll cost us nothing to remove it. So that’s why we went with that decision.”
Stephanie Aguilar, president of the San Clemente Skatepark Coalition, was not happy with the action, which came without the group being consulted, she told The Orange County Register.
The coalition has raised funds in the past to support the park.
“It just seems there could have been better communication, which could have helped with the response to everybody,” Aguilar told the Times.
“There’s a lot of people within our community who have put a lot of time and money, personal money … to the skatepark.”
She also said the action produced a terrible image for the city.
“That visual representation of the city dumping sand into the skatepark, it almost feels like, when you look at it, the city vandalized its own park, and I think it pains people to see it,” Aguilar said.
The city’s action was not well-received on Twitter:
Yet they can’t fix the roads? Another long term ploy to keep people divided! Time to use our Constitutional rights and get these guys out of office! https://t.co/mdPPvg0mHx
— houseofhowlers (@houseofhowlers) April 17, 2020
This is the kind of utter madness that this…madness has unleashed on this abused country. https://t.co/twSiki5IdS
— Jeffrey A Tucker (@jeffreyatucker) April 17, 2020
So city workers filled a skateboard park w 37 TONS of sand to stop people from skating OUTSIDE in the open? Money well spent?!?!
— DJ Pat D (@djpatd) April 17, 2020
Although Aguilar said she is worried the sand could trap moisture and damage the concrete it is now covering, Wylie said that would not happen, and even if it did, the city could make the repairs.
But Aguilar said the city has shown it has a double standard.
“Social distancing hasn’t been followed in a lot of different areas, whether it’s on our trails, tennis courts, the basketball courts, the walking paths; we didn’t see the city dump sand on the walking trail,” she said.
“We didn’t see them dump sand onto any other sport area that’s being used. It just plays into, kind of feeds into that double standard the skate community has been treated with.”
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