BARSTOW - Of the throngs of kids who spend afternoons at the skate park, only a handful showed up Wednesday night at the library to discuss it.

Nine people attended "Wisdom on Wheels," a discussion about the skate park at the Barstow Branch of the San Bernardino County Library. Young Adult Specialist Al Potthoff and library volunteer Timothy Duran led the discussion by passing out the list of 23 rules posted at the park.

"Why they make so much rules?" Ashley Slocum, 13, asked. "They shouldn't post them if there's no one there to enforce them ... kids won't listen if there's no one to tell them what to do."

Slocum, however, did not think the police should patrol the park. She said the infrequent police presence at the park makes the park less fun and kept people from going in past months. Others in attendance thought police should be allowed in case something bad happened at the park.

The skate park, located at Dana Park on Barstow Road, opened in August and has been heavily used by kids in Barstow. Since its opening, the community has raised concerns of safety at the park, fights and other illegal activity. Potthoff tried to bring the groups together on Wednesday for an open discussion at the library.

Some of the kids spent most of the night reading the rules, which led Potthoff to believe that many do not know them. David Green, 13, and Patrick Wilson, 14, have been skating at the park for several months now and said they did not know the rules until Wednesday's forum.
The rules are posted on large metal signs at the park near the entrance to the Majic Board Shop, but few kids stop to read them, Duran said. He said no matter the amount of rules posted at the park, kids will not read them because kids do not read rules. Skater at the park on Thursday were split on how effective the rules were. Many said they had read the rules. Kyle Nichols, 17, said that few follow them but nothing bad seems to happen because of it.

Another skater, Jacob Martinez, 13, said that people follow the rules for the most part. The skate park has gotten calmer he said, and spectators, not skaters, cause most of the problems.

"We all respect each other. We try to teach each other new tricks," he said.

Jeanette Hayhurst, the city's park and recreation manager, said the rules were not put in place because skaters are an exceptionally rowdy group. Instead, they are needed to legally protect the city. Many cities, she said, do not have skate parks because of potential lawsuits. Barstow copied rules from other cities with parks to formulate the present list. She said rules like number 20 - All users of the skate park shall be courteous to others and welcome new skaters - were included to set a tone at the park. Other parks in the city also have rules but not nearly as many, Hayhurst said.

One method the city is considering to deal with concerns over the skate park is to build a fence around the park. Hayhurst said the city's engineering department is putting together plans for the fence to present to the city council at a future meeting.

Skate parks in other southern California cities have fences and also charge people to skate to pay for maintenance of the park. Amanda Rojas, 13, said the skating should be free in order to keep it fun.

"They should fence the skate park but not charge people to get in," she said.

Hayhurst said the city has no intention of charging because then the city would assume liability at the park. The concerns, from neighbors close to the park and other residents, have dropped off in recent months. Hayhurst said calls to police have reduced significantly, and she hopes the trend will continue as the weather warms.

"I'm an optimist," she said. "I hoping that this park has found a balance."

Potthoff suspects a cooling off in the controversy surrounding the park hampered attendance at Wednesday's forum. And even though the discussion was unruly at time, filled with interruptions and missed points, Potthoff said it was worth to see the kids read the rules.

"They were just reading them," he said. "I rarely see that sort of concentration in the young adults that come to this library away from the computer screen."

Potthoff hopes to hold more such forums on community issues in the future.

Contact the writer: (760) 256-4121 or aaron_aupperlee@link.freedom.com