It’s not always a sign of impending cooperation when a law enforcement officer shows up at the local skate park.
But a t Clement Park on Sept. 12, a group of skateboarders, a Jeffco sheriff's deputy and other volunteers gathered to tidy up the park and let everyone know it shouldn't be trashed.
"We wanted to make a difference at the skate park," said 16-year-old Nick Bruso, a local skateboarder who spends a lot of time at the park skating and filming his friends. "This is like our home."
Bob Bruso, Nick's father and the owner of Robert's Italian-American Pizzeria, Restaurant & Deli, helped organize the cleanup and provided lunch to those who helped. Bruso also persuaded a local paint distributor to donate paint to cover graffiti, enlisted the help of the local skate shop owners and organized a few of the skaters’ parents, who brought high-pressure washers to scour off the grime and some of the graffiti.
"I challenged them to make a difference in their high school years," Bruso said, explaining why he wanted his children and the other skateboarders to help clean up the park.
A perception exists in the community — confirmed by several of the local adults who were at the cleanup — that the park is an eyesore and is considered a magnet for illicit activity. Some of the young skateboarders on hand agreed with that assessment and said it was a key reason they were there to clean up the park.
"Some people treat the park like crap," said one skateboarder who didn't share his name. "They show a complete disrespect for the skate park."
Nick Bruso agreed with that sentiment, and he said that negative perception fuels the way the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and Foothills Park & Recreation District view the park and the people who use it.
"The cops and Foothills see all this stuff, and they probably think the park is trashed," he said. "It's only a few people who are like that, but they're making the rest of us look bad."
Sheriff’s Deputy Gordon Neuenfeldt said there are some problems at the skate park but made it clear he didn't think all the users are at fault.
"This skate park has been an issue," Neuenfeldt said, pointing to one of the large sunken bowls, which attracts graffiti and other problems.
"The community sees this as something of a negative."
But the cleanup and the way the skateboarders embraced the effort will go a long way in showing local residents that the park's users are trying to keep it clean, Neuenfeldt said.
He praised Bob Bruso’s efforts in pulling the cleanup together and making it possible for a local law officer to meet the skateboarders one on one.
"He introduced me as 'Gordon,' not 'Deputy Neuenfeldt,’ " Neuenfeldt said. "That takes away the adversarial relationship, and puts a personal touch on it."
Brian Scott is an owner of Dire Ride Co., the local skate shop that helped out during the cleanup. He and the shop's other owner, Jeromy Sorley, think skateboarders should take care of the park.
"I think a lot of people count on the county to maintain (the skate park)," Scott said. "That's not going to happen. But maybe if more people see us out here taking care of it, they'll want to help out too."
Scott said most of the problem is people coming to the park after dark and "thinking it's a place to party."
Scott said most of the skaters are responsible if occasionally immature. But for the most part, he's proud of the way the skateboarders treat the park, and hopes a lot of them turn out for the competition Sept. 20 during the Summerset festival.
He added that he'd like the skaters on Dire Ride Co.'s team to be out cleaning the park once a month.
"That's my new rule, I think," Scott said with a chuckle. "We need to be out here setting an example."