Update: May 11, 2020 — Documents obtained by The Texan through an open records request reveal that the city spent $395.00 to purchase the sand, $165.00 on staff labor to install the sand, $127.25 on five skate park closure signs, and $1,848.42 on other supplies used for the closure of all Wylie city parks (including $645.00 on orange safety fence, $804.30 on T-posts, $137.12 on cable ties, and $262.00 on caution tape).
Much hullabaloo has been made over the City of Wylie’s decision to bury its skate park, but aside from criticisms from the public, the fiasco was barely mentioned at the latest city council meeting.
After the Wylie City Council passed an emergency ordinance in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the city covered up its skating facilities at the Joel Scott Memorial Park with dirt.
Under the ordinance, people are not prohibited from “engaging in essential daily activities” such as “visiting parks,” but all “park facilities and recreation facilities are closed.”
Posts shared on social media show a vehicle from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation guarding the park, and another account said that police asked some who were curiously inspecting the closure to leave.
Officials in San Clemente, California similarly had sand bulldozed from a nearby beach onto a skate park, only to have people riding dirt bikes show up to the facility later.
The Texan has submitted an open records request under the Texas Public Information Act seeking the cost and paid vendors or contractors but has not yet received a reply.
Under an ordinance that amended the budget after the shutdown, the $2.6 million parks budget is projected to save about $20,000 on personnel, but see an increase of $30,000 in other expenses.
According to a social media post from Christy Mowery, a Libertarian candidate for Texas’ 32nd Congressional District, the city manager, Chris Holsted, said that the idea for placing dirt on the skate park came from staff in the Parks and Recreation department and that the “sand dumping and removal will be $200.”
During the city council meeting on Tuesday night, Holsted repeated that number in passing, saying, “I’ve spent more of my salary time in the last two days talking about $200 worth of sand on a skate park.”
One resident, Brian Cook, submitted a message to be read at the meeting:
“The sand at the skate park was a horrible idea. Whoever is behind it should be held responsible, up to and including voted out of office or fired. We are not California. The city of Wylie is not our nanny. The mayor, the council, the city manager et al serve at the pleasure of the citizens. The excuse that this kept our officers from having to respond is not sufficient — bad optics and a bad message, total lack of leadership.”
At the meeting, an official from the police department also asked the council to insert a clause into the emergency order allowing for a lower level of enforcement option for violations, so that police can issue citations other than the more draconian Class B misdemeanor.
He said that the Wylie police have not issued any citations yet.
No mention was made of when the park facilities will reopen.
Update: The City of Wylie has removed the dirt from the skate park and has stated the park facilities will reopen on Friday, May 1 under Gov. Abbott’s new order.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.