Monday November 14, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- Skateboarders, bike riders and rollerbladers can expect to use the city's new skate park shortly after Thanksgiving, city officials have said.

Construction of the skate plaza adjacent to Pittsfield High School is scheduled to wrap up by Nov. 30, according to James McGrath, the city's parks and open space manager. Initially, McGrath expected the facility to be finished by mid-November, but he said inclement weather has "delayed a bit" completion of the project.

"Right now, the contractor is working on some of the more complex aspects of the skate park," he said. "The bowl and elevated plazas are done and we've moved on to other complex components."

A combination of $215,000 in city and state funds will pay for the cost of converting the tennis courts at the corner of Appleton and East streets into a skateboard and bike park. It will replace a similar skate park that was removed from the First Street Common a year ago as part of the multi-phased, multi-million dollar renovation of The Common.


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"Everything is progressing nicely and I think everyone is going to like the final outcome," McGrath said.

North Street merchants, along with local skate and bike enthusiasts, anxiously await the skate plaza's opening. They expect the new recreational facility will curb illegal use of skateboards, bicycles and scooters along North Street.

In September, nearly 25 downtown retailers petitioned the City Council seeking stricter enforcement of the city ordinance banning skateboards and bikes from North Street sidewalks. They claim some skateboarders and bike riders have endangered pedestrians by performing stunts on the sidewalks.

Last month, Mayor James M. Ruberto responded to the merchants' concerns by asking the City Council to approve an amendment to the regulation that would hold parents accountable for minors who violate the ordinance. Police would be allowed to levy the same fines against parents that violators currently face: $25 for the first offense, the second is $50 and third is $300. Police Chief Michael J. Wynn has said it's difficult to collect fines from the younger scofflaws.

In addition, police officers could seize the skateboard, bike and rollerblades for those of all ages who violate the revised ordinance.

The council's Committee on Ordinance and Rules will hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance change at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 in City Hall. The five-member panel will make a recommendation to the entire council for a final vote.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.