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Mound capped a wave of improvements to its Zero Gravity Skatepark with the installation of upgraded security cameras last month. The group of Westonka high school students enjoying the good weather Nov. 3 were enthusiastic about the fixes the city has made to the skate park over the past year. (Elizabeth Hustad/Laker Pioneer)

Zero Gravity Skatepark in Mound has been getting a gradual facelift over the past year—resurfaced half-pipe, a water fountain and mister once again in working order—and the city has just put the bow on the box, signaling to folks using the skate park: please don’t mess with it; the security cameras are also working now.

The city finished installing the cameras, paid for out of its Crime Prevention Fund, in mid-October.

It wasn’t just the vandalism and littering—two things that spurred an 11-year-old kid to make a plea at the podium ahead of Mound city council members Oct. 27—but also underage smoking and one fire that had turned the park into a nuisance, said Sgt. Kenny Beck of Orono Police.

Beck had given council members a rundown of the department’s September activity in Mound duing council’s first October session. He said his department had received a high number of complaints about the skate park and that it had become a nuisance.

That didn’t surprise Brian Williams, a Westonka sophomore, who was out practicing skate tricks with a group of friends last Tuesday: he said he’s heard rumors about some of the activity that has taken place there, even if he hasn’t witnessed it firsthand.

Data retrieved from Orono Police show that officers responded to 13 calls at the skate park this year. These calls ranged from a single parking complaint to a recent property damage hit and run on Oct. 13—just following the camera installation. Loud music, a bicycle theft and minor fights between juveniles have also been cause for complaint this year.

City officials said they hope the cameras will serve as a warning to the wayward.

“Some of the littering, some of the graffiti—those things will hopefully reduce with time because those who choose to behave that way are now more likely to get caught, and sometimes that’s the best deterrent,” said Mound city manager Eric Hoversten, who said the city has already “seen some fruits of that labor.”

Hoversten said a major incident in the parking lot adjacent to the skate park was caught on camera just one day after completing the installation and that an officer with Orono PD became aware of it while learning how to use to the camera playback. Orono PD was unable to comment on whether this incident was the Oct. 13 hit and run due to that incident still being an open investigation.

The city’s Parks and Open Spaces Commission had listed the cameras as budget priorities this summer. Other repairs had been in the works since last fall when the city met with some residents, including Williams and his mother, to figure out what could be done. Now, the city is hoping to lock in those improvements and prevent further damage—as well as further delinquency—going forward.

“It’s important for users of the skate park and their parents to know what’s going on there, and that’s always the best form of supervision […] but there are also obviously issues that you can’t solve yourself and so having the Orono Police better equipped to deal with that is something that I’m very pleased that the Crime Prevention Fund helped us with,” said Hoversten.

Williams and his friends were enthusiastic about the improvements made; one in the group said they also try to do their part in keeping cleaned up what has become one of their favorite hangout spots over the summer months—or a warm November afternoon.

Fresh off a slope of the skate park bowl, Williams rejoins his friends under the pavillion and puts it simply for why they keep coming back: “We’re just here to talk, work on tricks and skate.”

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