BRADENTON -- The skate park has proven to be the most popular part of the Bradenton Riverwalk, but it may be causing trouble for the nearby Manatee Veterans Monument Park.
Don Courtney, chairman of the Manatee County Veterans Council, said they have had to repair at least eight benches in the park that had cracks in the concrete or were broken, possibly by skateboarders.
"I personally haven't seen them, but I have seen them riding over the bricks," Courtney said. The paved bricks are dedicated to Manatee County veterans.
Police said they haven't received reports of skateboarders on the Veterans' Memorial grounds, which is between the Riverwalk and Manatee Memorial Hospital.
"I would like to ask the parents to remind the skateboarders to use the park and leave ours and others along their route to and from alone," he said.
Courtney, a retired Army warrant officer who served for 30 years, said the skateboarding park was a concern for him when it was proposed, but he remained positive until he witnessed the damage. He hopes the damage is not too expensive to repair, stating that the memorial uses donated funds to operate.
"I don't know the cost yet," said Courtney. "I'm hoping it's not too much."
Other members have said most of the incidents occur after 10 p.m.
Many skaters come to the Riverwalk often and dream of going pro. Andres Bega, 17, comes to the park at least three times a week and says he skates within the designated area. Bega's brother is in the military and
the idea that someone could damage a memorial dedicated to his brother and other veterans disgusts him.
"Why would they do that? Why would you desecrate someone's property?" said Bega, who began skating for the first time when the park opened last fall.
He said if he ever saw someone skating in the memorial park, he'd tell them to stop. He doesn't want to jeopardize their privileges of skating in the 24-hour park.
Parish Cuellar, 48, was skateboarding Tuesday and speculated that some skaters might be "grinding" on the memorial's benches. This skating move uses "trucks," which are a metal T-shaped part that mounts onto the underside of the board, to slide across a smooth surface.
Cuellar comes to the skate park to brush up on his moves and stay in shape. He said the skaters have a respect for each other and the park, and he rebuked the skaters who may have disrespected the memorial.
"They shouldn't do that. We have a nice park here," Cuellar said.
Capt. Darrell Akemon, who patrols the Riverwalk area, said that neither he nor any of the other officers who patrol that area have received any complaints about skateboarders at the veterans memorial.
He encourages people to call the Bradenton Police Department to report any incidents they see occurring in the memorial park.
"We were unaware of what was going on," said Akemon. "We will put a close watch on the area. We want to take care of everyone in this city."