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City of SLO takes action to regulate skate park uses after complaints of harassment

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Posted at 5:02 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 00:24:33-04

A San Luis Obispo roller derby league for children says they've experienced harassment over the past few weeks while practicing at Santa Rosa Park.

In response, the City of San Luis Obispo has posted a couple of signs letting people know that drop-in use is no longer allowed at the rink. On top of that, the gates are being locked.

The SLOCO Junior Roller Derby reserves the roller rink at Santa Rosa Park for practice each week.

Over the past few Sundays, though, they say they've been increasingly harassed by a group of skateboarders who appear to be minors.

"It's been pretty disturbing," said coach Julie Jensen-Chow. "Our job is to keep our skaters safe."

Just this week, the group is said to have torn down the reserved sign and as captured in a video obtained by KSBY, they stormed the rink before the derby's reserved time was over.

"Then they proceeded to start yelling slurs and lots of buzz words and saying some very horrible things not only to the coaches but our young skaters as well," said president/head coach Marina Penna.

The nonprofit says the group of skateboarders, which isn't allowed on the rink as indicated by signage, has harassed them for several weeks now.

The coaches say they've thrown food at the young roller skaters during practice and also offered drugs and made threatening gestures with a taser.

The SLOCO Junior Roller Derby says the harassment has escalated to the point where police have been called twice.

"You should be able to skate without the need to feel like you have to watch your back," Penna said.

Meanwhile, the City of San Luis Obispo is stepping in to help end the bad behavior.

"So we've closed it down to permitted uses only," said Devin Hyfield, City of San Luis Obispo Parks and Rec. Department Recreation Manager.

Besides roller derby, a hockey group and a basketball clinic will only be allowed to access the rink with keys issued by the city.

"We do appreciate the city's fast response," Jensen-Chow said.

The sports league has even taken to Facebook to share these experiences of harassment, with others also chiming in and voicing similar experiences.

"We want to make sure that all of our parks and recreation facilities are accessible and have positive vibes and spirits," Hyfield said.

The city says that the roller rink will be closed to reservations only until August 9, possibly longer.

The skate park ambassador that monitors the rink and educates the public is currently out but he's set to return in August.

The city adds that it's the first time they've had to take these types of measures in recent years.