Skate park advocates hope to discourage graffiti with new paint job

For the second time in the last month, a popular new downtown Stratford skate park has been covered with paint. But this time it’s with good intentions.

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For the second time in the past month, a popular new downtown Stratford skate park has been covered with paint.

But this time, it’s with good intentions.

Several ramps at the All Wheels Park on Downie Street were tagged with crude black paint a few weeks ago, including images of multiple male genitalia and a swastika. Blake Keen, a 20-year-old college student and Stratford bicycle shop employee who is proud of the Shakespeare Park facility and keeps a watchful eye on it, said they’re not sure who did it.

“None of the kids who actually ride here knew anything’s going on like that. We showed up here the next day (and) it’d been spray painted,” Keen said.

The markings have faded but were still visible Wednesday. To completely cover up the offensive images, and to prevent future tagging incidents, a group of local residents spent the day painting impressive, bright – but, most importantly, appropriate – features on the ramps. Circles and wheels were the theme.

Keen, Mikayla Racz and Josh Dobson were all on site by 9 a.m. alongside several buckets of paint planning out the designs. The trio all have various artistic backgrounds. Keen is currently studying photography at Sheridan College in Oakville; Racz, 19, works for Gallery Stratford; and Dobson has experience in automotive painting.

Quin Malott, the city’s manager of parks, forestry and cemeteries, said the offensive graffiti was removed by staff with a soda ash power blaster. He said urban art, as long as it’s appropriate, will not be removed as it’s part of the skating culture.

The trio mocked designs with chalk and took photos before making it permanent Wednesday with outdoor paint. The group expected to finish its part of project in one day, although a special guest artist will be brought in to work on one of the other ramps over the next two weeks.

Bruce Whitaker, the local resident who spearheaded the half-a-million-dollar project, said they’re also considering installing solar-powered lights to discourage late-night tagging. Whitaker added he was proud of the community-led group for meeting regularly and coming up with solutions.