[media-credit name=”Facebook: Lakeland” align=”alignleft” width=”100″]skatesquare[/media-credit]

“Illicit behavior” from a few people has prompted Lakeland parks officials to change the closing time at the Lake Bonny skatepark from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m. starting Monday.

While a few skaters have reacted angrily, others are working with the city to reduce trouble and restore the 10 p.m. close.

City officials met with members of the Lakeland Skaters Alliance before announcing the change in hours at the $1.3 million park that opened in 2013.

“Bad behavior from a few” led to the change in hours, a “last resort” before considering hiring a full-time attendant and charging admission, the announcement said.

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A charge to use the park is exactly what Justin Spangler is trying to avoid. Spangler, one of the skaters who met with city officials, posted a video to Facebook today outlining what skaters need to do in order to keep the park free and restore the 10 p.m. closing time:

  • Be respectful to park employees. “They’re only doing their job.”
  • Take cigarettes outside the skate park.
  • Take drugs or any other illegal activity completely off city property.
  • Avoid “sketchy people” in the parking lot and report “hoodlum kids” stealing things.
  • Pick up your trash. “It’s that simple.” And to people who have dumped trash bins to register their displeasure: “I’ll personally make sure you get ticketed.”
  • Watch your language. “There’s kids there.”

Spangler said the city is giving skaters a “grace period” to see if they deserve to have the 10 p.m. closing restored.

Added Bruce Phillips on Facebook: “Skaters want respect – they have to earn that respect!” Phillips, president of Crowder Brothers Ace Hardware, also represented skaters in the city meeting.

“We worked hard to get this thing built – years of hard work,” he told Fox 13. “For just a few to come in and spoil  the fun for the many, it’s disappointing.”

“It’s a $1.3 million park we get to use it free and we want to keep it free,” Spangler said.

From the time the park opened until the end of last year, Lakeland police received 57 calls for service related to the park for infractions such as marijuana smoking, drug sales, truancy, and public disturbances, police spokesman Gary Gross told The Ledger.  He added he doesn’t consider that a large number for a public space.

City Commissioner Justin Troller, who has fielded calls from parents concerned about the park, told The Ledger he supports a gate fee for the park and building a pro shop that would be leased to a third party whose personnel would increase supervision.

Separately, a petition on change.org asks for a return to the 10 p.m. close time, saying work, school and dinner schedules will keep many people from getting to the park much before 8.

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips: newstips@lkldnow.com

Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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