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Gold Hill skate park graffiti angers skaters, locals

GOLD HILL — It took some 15 years for volunteers to get a skate park built, but probably fewer than 15 minutes for vandals to mar its surface last week with poorly written words, alien faces and pot leaves.

City officials noticed the graffiti last week on the street-style park, which opened in April at the sports park along Highway 234. Local skaters on Wednesday and Thursday helped paint over some of the more obnoxious bits of graffiti.

Large yellow letters declaring "Dope Cuz" covered most of one section of the park, while an alien face and the initials A.G. adorned nearby surfaces.

Crater High senior Nick Lang, who grew up nearby and remembers longing for a city skate park as a student in Gold Hill schools, helped paint over some of the graffiti on Wednesday.

"It's not even graffiti because if it was graffiti, at least it would be artistic. This is just stupid," said Lang.

"My guess is this is just Gold Hill kids who got stoned and bought a can of spray paint and came here to mess it up because they were bored. Nobody I know who goes here to use this park would do this. We waited too long to get it."

Lang and other skaters worried that pressure washing and painting over the tagging were not sufficient solutions. Areas of dark gray squares were visible where some coverup had already been applied.

A memorial plaque on one section of the park, placed in honor of late resident Tom Fish, for whom the park was dedicated, was partially tagged and was one of the first areas where the tagging was painted over.

Seattle resident and skateboarder Adam Gamble, in the Rogue Valley for seasonal work this month, said the graffiti was an unfortunate eyesore but that covering the vandalism with primer poses a risk to skaters.

"It is sad that kids decided to come mess it up. When it comes down to it, yeah, they could pressure wash it, but that'll just mess up the coating and make it rough. And I bet the kids who did this don't realize that painting over it will make it more slick and more dangerous, just like ice or wax," he said.

"I think this park probably isn't attracting as much buffoonery as other parks, which is good, and even with the graffiti, it's still here to use and it's really in a great spot."

With Gold Hill largely without a police force for much of the past decade, city officials recent began to negotiate with Jackson County Sheriff's Department officials for code enforcement and an overall increased police presence.

Mayor Jan Fish said vandalism at the skate park and a handful of other incidents around town seemed almost like a final "acting out" by residents unhappy with the increased police presence.

"We have had some other acts of vandalism that were much more damaging recently," Fish noted, indicating that a flow meter at the city water reservoir had been damaged and problems persisted in other city parks.

"I think people are reacting to more of a presence of the sheriff's department. There's no contract yet but there will be, and some of the gloomier folks in town are just acting out."

Continued issues at city parks, Fish noted, could prompt increased security.

Earlier this month, City Manager Rick Haunbaum said some funding from the city's insurance provider would be used to install increased lighting and security cameras in some areas of town, but the skate park was not slated for any security improvements as of yet.

Fish, mother to the park's namesake, said the skate park could see increased security if problems persist.

"I just take it with a grain of salt. Did it surprise me? No. I thought we had actually gone longer than expected without being vandalized," she said.

"I think we have some problems to deal with and it took a little while for things to get bad, so we're not going to clean them up overnight. But we will get them dealt with."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com

Nick Lang, 17, of Central Point, rides at the Gold Hill Skate Park on Wednesday. Vandals last week spray painted the park, which opened just last spring. They adorned the park’s concrete with large yellow letters reading ‘Dope Cuz.’ - Jamie Lusch