Skate park closed after toilet fire

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By Lisa King

Six weeks after its grand opening, the Shelby County Skate Park has been closed after a portable toilet was burned down, apparently as an act of vandalism, according to Clay Cottongim, director of Shelbyville/Shelby County Parks and Recreation.

Cottongim added that the park will not re-open until the vandals are caught.

"What we're going to do is put the word out on the street that the park will not re-open until we find out who did the damage," he said.

According to Cottongim, the incident happened at about 10:54 Monday night.

"My ranger locked up at 10 (a.m.), and he noticed some kids up there when he locked it up that were hanging around," he said.

He added that he thinks the youths may be involved in the incident or know something about it.

Maj. Danny. Goodwin with the Shelbyville Police Department said no arrests have been made.

Fire chief Willard "Tiger" Tucker said he does not plan to pursue an arson investigation.

"When we arrived, the toilet was, in fact, ablaze and there were some bystanders in the area," he said.

Although he said that he has no idea how the toilet could have burned down accidentally, he said, "We could not rule out enough accidental causes to pursue it any further. The cause was ruled undetermined, but I do believe that the police and the parks department are investigating the possibility of mischief."

The $90,000 park was the culmination of much hard work by several local youths who did the research for the park design, made presentations to the park's board last December and worked to raise the funding for the project.

Cottongim said that there have been some minor incidents at the park involving vandalism and fighting, but nothing major.

Cottongim said that the park, located at Daniel Field at the site of the former swimming pool, has been locked up and that if anyone climbs the fence to gain entry, they will be prosecuted.

He said he is very disappointed that the park has to be closed because of vandalism and that he hopes it can be re-opened soon.

Dee Maynard, a volunteer who was also instrumental in making the park a reality, echoed Cottongim's sentiments.

"I don't think anybody who actually is a skater had anything to do with it, but since it happened at the skate park, we need to address the issue and make sure the skate park is safe for everybody, and at this point in time, I'm not sure it is, with people who are willing to burn down port-a-potties."

Cottongim said a public meeting will be held Monday, July 7 at 6 p.m. at the park, to discuss the situation and general guidelines for the skate park.