Controversy continues around skate park removal in Trumann

Controversy continues around skate park removal in Trumann
Trumann residents say they're upset after their skate park was removed Monday. (Source: KAIT)

TRUMANN, Ark. (KAIT) - A petition has been started to remove Trumann’s Mayor, Barbara Lewallen after Monday’s skate park removal. Many in the city are still in a rage after it all happened.

When Region 8 News asked Lewallen if she had plans to resign, her response was “No, I do not.”

Lewallen did hand over the minutes from the November 2019 budget committee meeting, where the decision was approved to tear the skate park down.

The meeting covered a few things including the skate park at Cedar Park, saying the condition was "deteriorating "and that it had been “set on fire several times.”

But, also committee members Rick Gillette and Matt Miller suggesting to tear it down and the rest of the committee agreeing because of the expense to replace it.

Miller released this statement saying in part:

I have heard the rumors that I switch sides and that the skate park destruction was my fault. I am on the Budget...

Posted by Council Member Matthew Miller - Ward 3 on Thursday, March 5, 2020

“He has heard the rumors of him switching sides. The committee voted to tear the skate park down," Miller said in a Facebook post.

But, he adds that it should have gone to the full council, allowing the public to speak before anything was done.

“When we tried to un-bulk it, it collapsed. We did not intend to destroy it but there wasn’t any choice after that. It was not salvageable," Lewallen said
“When we tried to un-bulk it, it collapsed. We did not intend to destroy it but there wasn’t any choice after that. It was not salvageable," Lewallen said (Source: Isaac Haynie)

And when it came to the photo of the large ramp being taken down, the mayor says there was no way to save it.

“When we tried to unbolt it, it collapsed. We did not intend to destroy it but there wasn’t any choice after that. It was not salvageable,” Lewallen said.

The rest of the park is stored behind a city gate, locked away.

The community of skaters feel targeted after their skate park was demolished.

Track marks could be seen in the grass because removal equipment was there to tear it all down Monday morning.

And, that all comes after a group was out there cleaning the entire park Sunday evening.

“I wish I had a warning… really," Trumann skater Jesus Lopez said.

Teenagers in the Trumann area say they are caught off guard.

A skate park they were at this past weekend was removed a day later. The city removed ramps, railing, and even trees.

“This being broken down it really feels like a part of me has been taken away,” Lopez said.

There were questions Monday being directed to the mayor on why.

“I did not put it out on Facebook as a city announcement, but it was something that was in the planning. It wasn’t new,” Trumann Mayor Barbara Lewallen said.

But according to this community Facebook page, she made it known that it was going to happen.

Monday, those same children and parents are speaking out.
Monday, those same children and parents are speaking out. (Source: Trumann Citizens for a Better Trumann)

“When it becomes a hazard, the city becomes responsible," Lewallen said.

The committee has both officials and community members on it and while going over the budget for this year, the skate park was a part of the conversation.

Those members are Ted Walker, Matt Miller, Rick Gillette, Laura Walton, Carol Waleszonia, Donnie England, Jason Stewart, Chad Henson and Mayor Barbara Lewallen.

“It would cost approximately $200,000 to replace the major ramps," Lewallen said.

That’s just the ramps. The entire renovation could cost up to $300,000.

Parents say that the park was all the kids had.

“This is where I come to see him every day after school, because I know this is where he’s going to be,” parent Nicole Whitaker said.

Mayor Lewallen says the skating park isn’t officially gone though, “We did not destroy them. We simply stored them,” Lewallen said.

That will be the plan until if they decide to put the ramps back or purchase new pieces.

“My sole purpose is to do what I think is best for our city to improve our city. Not to destroy or cause problems,” Lewallen said.

“I just wish we could get it rebuilt and better conditions,” Lopez said.

The community is also now raising money for a new skate park here.

Skaters are also getting some positive feedback from a Trumann native.

“I grew up in Trumann and I used to go to that skate park as a kid,” Little Rock-based lawyer Asa King said.

King was raised in Trumann and has plans to return home soon to open an office, but also a skate park for the kids.

“I have a huge parking lot that I am not going to use and I think it would be great to rebuild the skate park there,” King said.

If it happens, that skate park will be located in the side parking lot of his office on 1008 W.Speedway, about a mile from the original park.

“I think some people are willing to jump in almost immediately to start building the ramps. Hopefully, we can get it built pretty quickly, as long as the city doesn’t try to obstruct us,” King said.

But, even the mayor says she has plans.

“I’ve been working on the skate park and trying to see what to do about it for the last three years. I’ve been in constant contact with a ramp company and we do have plans but these things do not happen overnight," Lewallen said.

King plans to have a meeting in town on March 7 to start the conversation on this skate park.

Skaters are also calling everyone to come out to the city council meeting on March 10 to show solidarity.

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