Bill Allen shook his head after seeing the fresh scrapes on the new benches in front of the Fine Arts Center.The Castleton State College dean of administration could then be overheard blaming skateboarders for the damage.
“I have been inspecting the progress of work at the FAC and have also noticed the damaged caused by skateboarders there,” Allen said in an e-mail response to questions about the damage. “This damage seems to be consistent with damage elsewhere on campus. In addition I have actually noticed skateboarders at the FAC.
“I would hope most are well behaved and avoid destruction of school property. Having said that I am also not convinced that all the boarders I see on campus are Castleton students. I think some maybe local community residents.”
Every time you walk across campus you can hear the sound of skateboard wheels or the hard slap of a board hitting the pavement. Instead of playing sports that the college offers, or sitting in a dorm room playing videogames, skateboarders are out getting their own form of exercise.
But with their exercise comes complaints.
Countless times, Public Safety officers push skateboarding students away from the resident halls and send them over to their “designated skate park,” the small commuter lot by the Public Safety building.
Many skateboarders view their boards as a personal attachment to their body, much like an arm or a leg, and seldom go anywhere without it. Some college students bike to class, others drive cars, but these people skate to class. Some people get annoyed by that and believe the walkways are crowded enough when classes get out without having to dodge skateboarders.
“I don’t have a problem with skateboarders, in fact I’m friends with a lot of them. Just get them off the walkways,” said Josh Kittell, a sophomore at Castleton State College.
As enrollment at Castleton begins to rise, some skaters say perhaps it’s time for the school to build a small skate park. Maybe the school’s Community Action Seminar class could tackle the project, they say. Last year the group installed new basketball hoops.
Castleton student Dave Foote, 25, has been skateboarding for 13 years. He said he would love to see a skate park developed at Castleton State College.
“If Castleton had a skate park, then we wouldn’t have to go over to Green Mountain College to use the one they have. I know they say there are some minor problems with skateboarders on campus, but put in a skate park and I’m sure those problems would go away,” Foote said.
Regarding the damage to the Fine Arts Center benches, Foote said “Skateboarders definitely did it.” But he said other complaints of destruction at the hands of skateboarders, like damage to the steps of buildings, are inaccurate.
“I know that boarders scratched up the benches, but it’s impossible for a skateboard to destroy concrete steps. I mean think about it, it’s a piece of wood with wheels on it, it’s not going to destroy cement.”
Despite anger towards skateboarders from officials, many students said they don’t mind them at all.
“I don’t see any problems with students skateboarding around campus. They’re having fun. If the college is having such a hard time with the situation, and skateboarders are in fact destroying school property, then maybe they should build a skate park for them,” said junior Lene Ballard.
So what are the chances of a skate park?
Allen said he’s been approached by students looking for a small terrain park for skiers and snowboarders in the winter, but not about a skate park.
“With the snowboard park, stuff will be put away after winter and requires little up front cost. A skateboard park would need a hard surface and by that fact alone may require more planning and expense. I have talked about it with some staff members, but I don’t recall talking to any students about it,” he said in the e-mailed response. “But I don’t think skateboarding in a busy parking lot is a good idea.”
That said, Allen said he’s certainly willing to look at options for a skate park if there is enough interest on campus.
But he sent a message that damaging campus property isn’t the way to go about getting a park.
“I would hope that the scratched and broken benches, damaged cement work, and arguments with public safety will end right now. These items are here for the use and safety of all the campus community and should be treated with respect,” he said. “The damage is unsightly, in rare instances dangerous, and often expensive to repair. The whole community bears the cost.”
Foote doesn’t condone the damage to school property, but he said the time has clearly come for a skate park at Castleton.
“Castleton has tennis courts, basketball courts, a rock wall, a soccer field, a baseball field, umm skate park please?” he said.