This week, the Polish Hill skate park looks more like a sandbox than a place to try out new tricks. Pittsburgh Public Works has dumped pounds of sand around the park’s bowl and at the base of the park’s ramps.
Some skaters were outraged on social media, criticizing the move. Skate parks in California have taken similar measures to prevent skaters from gathering there.
The skate park was decommissioned along with basketball courts and other outdoor recreational facilities at city parks in March. But recently, according to Public Works Director Mike Gable, numerous tips came in about groups of skateboarders ignoring social distancing guidelines and skating in the park. Then came the sand.
“We don’t take any pride in closing facilities. They’re great assets,” Gable said. “But there is a directive out there and when it’s not being followed, it creates a problem.”
Gable said West Penn Park, where the skate park is located, presents a unique challenge compared with other city parks due to its size.
“The area that the skate park is in is a very tight, confined space. The number of people using it was extraordinary and that’s why it was closed,” he said.
There are not currently plans to put sand in two of the city’s other skate parks —McKinley Park or Sheraden Skate Park. Neither of those parks have bowls, and as a result have been easier to manage during the closures, according to Gable.
Public Works will remove the sand when the parks are able to reopen, something Gable looks forward to.
“Hopefully in the next week or two we’ll get some good news that we can maybe start opening some things up and getting back to normal,” Gable said. “That’s what we’re trying to get to.”