In between gliding up and down ramps on his scooter and trying new tricks, Lodi High School freshman Cody Adams tells one of his friends who missed the trash can with his snack wrapper to go pick up his litter at the Kofu Park Skate Park.
On Thursday afternoon, Adams and about 20 other BMX and scooter riders and skateboarders felt their wheels hit the wooden ramps for the first time in 49 days.
At the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Tuesday night, city staff announced that the park would reopen. It was closed on Aug. 30 because of excessive littering and problems with drugs and alcohol, said Jeff Hood, who is the interim Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services director.
"The users need to take ownership of the park and take care of it. We needed a cooling-off period, a time out," Hood said.
The city closed the park, which is located on Ham Lane, after park workers had stopped picking up the trash and so much had accumulated that the city could not mow, Hood said. City staff also started discussing issues with drug and alcohol abuse at the park.
The Parks and Recreation Commission met twice to discuss possible solutions. A new hotline (209-625-9511) has been set up for teenagers and adults to text or call if they see illegal activity at the skate park.
Even though it was almost 90 degrees out and the sun was bearing down Thursday, around 20 teens were performing tricks within a half-hour of the skate park reopening, while another 15 were sitting on the hills, including parents.
Hood came out to the park around 2:30 p.m. and yelled at a teen walking in with a cigarette despite the "No Smoking" sign. He warned that city will close the park again if there are problems.
"We'll close it repeatedly. We'll keep closing it and reopening it," he said. "Maybe that will help the users decide to take care of it."
Clint Irons, who started the group "Lodi Skatepark" on Facebook, was taking photos of his son Brighton on his BMX bike. Irons has been driving to Elk Grove, Sacramento and Folsom with carloads of his son's friends to skate while the Lodi park was shuttered.
"I'm just glad they finally reopened it," he said. "I don't think they realize how important this is for this part of the community. It would be like closing every park in Lodi for the 3- to 7-year-old crowd."
Brighton Irons and his friends have also been riding in the streets, which worries Clint Irons because it is more dangerous. When Brighton or another kid gets hurt at the skate park, there are dozens of kids to help and call parents, Clint Irons said.
"When he says, 'Dad, we are gonna go ride at the skate park,' I know he is here with his friends," he said.
Because the kids have always had a skate park, Clint Irons said he expects the closure will help with the litter.
"They will probably respect it a little bit more now," he said.
But he knows many of the kids who were causing problems at the skate park have moved to other parks, and he said if they come back, it will be hard for the kids to self-police.
Adams, who is 14, has been riding his scooter at the park for 2 1/2 years. At first he was surprised to see people breaking the law, but now he ignores anyone doing drugs or alcohol.
"After a few months or a year, it becomes something you get used to seeing," he said. He understands that there is a zero-tolerance policy. He hopes the people who do drugs and drink alcohol will not come back, now that the park is open.
"It will really show those people how bad it will be and that they will shut the park if they continue to do it," he said.
Another reason the city should open the park is because it gives Adams and his friends a place to practice the sports they love. With the park closed, Adams said he has been "riding streets," which over time can lead to damage to stairs and ledges. When the park is open, he rarely rides on the street.
Gail Irons, who is Brighton Irons's great-aunt, attended the first Parks and Recreation Commission meeting in September and offered to clean up the litter at the park in order for it to be open. Because she didn't have to work on Thursday, she came out to the park to watch the kids play and be an adult presence.
"This is good for Lodi. It gets kids out doing exercise, they are in the fresh air, they are talking to each other face-to-face. If they are out here, doing this, they are not getting in trouble anywhere else. It's a safe environment," she said.
Brighton Irons walks up to get a drink of water and take a break in the shade. He said he would rather come to a local skate park than go to one out of town. He and his dad want to organize competitions to show people how widespread the sport is.
Lodi Middle School students Cameron King and Jose Oregel said they have enjoyed having the park back because they were getting bored at home, and it is hard to find other places to ride in Lodi. Both said they will be more proactive about trash.
"I know that if I see litter, I'll pick it up. Now, we know that they are not joking," King said.
Hood said he is hopeful there will be permanent changes.
"Maybe in the short run it will be better, but we will have to see in the long run," he said.