As skaters continued on Sunday to defy an emergency order that has closed playgrounds and parks in Gainesville due to the COVID-19, Gainesville City Manager Lee Feldman developed a way reopen Possum Creek Skatepark.
“At the end of the day, we didn’t want a confrontation, so we backed down. We let them make their protest."
--Lee Feldman, Gainesville City Manager
According to Gainesville Police Department Chief Inspector Jorge Campos, mulch was put in the park as a deterrent last week because of repeat offenders ignoring the signs and removing the tape that marked the closed area.
“It wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction,” Campos said. “We’ve been out there several times educating people as to why they can’t use the skate park. They come and wear none of the personal protective equipment,” he said.
“You have leaders who have made rules and put them in place to protect the general population.”
After signs were removed and skaters were hanging out in groups with no social distancing, Feldman said the city had no choice but to do what cities across the U.S. had done and place something in the park to try to stop the activity.
“The skate park has been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis,” Feldman said. “We had it roped off with yellow tape that went away relatively easily. As we started reopening other parts of the park, there were a plethora of skaters using it and hanging around the facility.
The most expedient way was to do what other cities were doing and put down mulch, Feldman said.
“At the end of the day, we didn’t want a confrontation, so we backed down,” Feldman said. “We let them make their protest.
“Subsequently, we have found a way to open it with social distancing and in a responsible and safe way and we’re in the process of doing that,” Feldman said.
“We’re going to have a person out there. We’re going to limit it to 10 skaters and distance them so they are not all sitting on the wall together.
“It may even be this afternoon. “