Lights Off: Louisville Skaters Battle City Over Park Lighting

Frequent skaters disagree with the citys decision to turn off the lights at 11 p.m.
Frequent skaters disagree with the city’s decision to turn off the lights at 11 p.m.
Aaron Ziegler

On June 17, 2023, at around 11 p.m., Will Donohue and his friends arrived at Dave Armstrong Extreme Park after work. That night, the park and its surrounding streets were unusually crowded with ‘outsiders’. To Will, it seemed like a perfect recipe for disaster. Hours after skating, heated arguments suddenly broke out between various motorbikers, which led to guns being raised. Abruptly, Will and his friends, caught in between crossfires, crouched behind a wall, as bullets zipped by them and gunshots rang in their ears.     

“They actually started shooting. It was scary, bullets were flying by me and my friends and we were just trying to skate,” said Donohue. Similar to Donohue and his friends, other skaters were present during this altercation mainly caused by outsiders.

We have several cameras at the skate park. We’ve seen several incidents where hundreds of outsiders will show up at the park, on small motorbikes and take over. The skaters have no choice but to sit and watch until they’re done,” said Matthew Sanders, a member of the media and public relations office for the Louisville Metro Police Department, referring to the source of the problem in writing.

Surveillance footage revealed the dispute near the skatepark involving many unidentified teenagers. One of the teenagers involved, 18-year-old Robert Perkins, was convicted of assaulting two police officers that night. Perkins was one of four adolescents arrested and one of many involved during the altercation. Perkins was arrested under the charges of assaulting various police officers. 

Once a 24-hour park, activity around Dave Armstrong has and will remain to cease at an earlier hour in light of the recent shooting. The skatepark, formerly known as Louisville Extreme Park, offers one of our “nation’s best skate parks” to locals and visitors from all over the city.  

According to AreaVibes, a data analytics website that provides demographics on American cities, Butchertown total crime rate stands at 4,659 per 100 thousand, “which is 129% higher than Kentucky as a whole”. In addition, national crime rates stand at 2,346 per 100 thousand people. The rise in violent crime around the neighborhood has spiked concern for nearby residents. 

This chart, created by AreaVibes, illustrates Data Collected from an FBI report in September 2022 per 100,000 people.

 (AreaVibes) “It was shocking. But when you really see some of the firearms that were used, [and] just how cavalier they were walking around, [it’s] like they were in a video game. But it’s not a video game,” said Casey Hyland, owner of Hyland Glass—a studio near the skatepark— in an interview with Wave 3, explaining his concerns surrounding the violence displayed that night.      

As a preventative action to keep those caught in the crossfire safe, the Parks Department and Deputy Mayor, Nicole George, have decided to shut off the lights surrounding the park at 11 p.m. every night. When discussing this newly adopted decision, Sanders mentioned a past overlooked ordinance requiring “all metro-government parks” to close by 11 p.m. each night. 

“Even the Waterfront park closes at 11:00. It would be unethical to shut down other parks and not the skate park. The city was just upholding the ordinance which was already established prior to even the skate park’s existence,” said Sanders. 

The metro is now choosing to take a stricter stance on park regulations following the violence that occurred the night of June 17, 2023. Louisville Metro Code Ordinance, Chapter 42 paragraph 32, states that parks “shall close at 11:00 p.m. and shall remain closed until 6:00 a.m.,”. The Ordinance also prohibits any personnel outside the Louisville Metro Government from entering the park outside its open hours.   

Sanders exclaims that this new plan will hopefully work to deter further intrusion from outsiders. However, the frequent skaters at the park disagree with this decision and feel that they are being held at fault for others’ actions.  

“The people that intrude have ruined a lot for the skating community,” said Christopher Gentile, a frequent skater at Dave Armstrong Skate Park, but he wants it to “go back to normal.”

Despite the city’s obligation to abide by the law, Sanders sympathizes with the frequent skaters who are negatively affected by this ordinance, “In this case, it wasn’t just ‘a few bad apples spoiled the bunch’… instead ‘a bunch of bad apples spoiled the bunch’,” said Sanders.


About the Contributors
Dia Cohen
Dia Cohen, Photo and Design Editor
Dia Cohen is the Photo and Design Editor for Manual RedEye this year. She loves to read, play piano, draw and stargaze. She is passionate about covering criminal justice issues. In short, she's a real renaissance woman. You can contact her at [email protected].
Aaron Ziegler
Aaron Ziegler, Staffer
Aaron Ziegler is a staffer for Manual RedEye. You can contact him at [email protected].
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  • J

    J CohenNov 3, 2023 at 7:12 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard the bad apples analogy turned quite that way. Good story. It is sad a that a few bad moments can ruin a positive experiment for others.