The city should name its new skatepark after hit-and-run victim Henry Waye, Jr, many friends say.
“That would be pretty good,” said Michael Keith, a Bristol Central High School freshman who used to hang out with Waye at the Rockwell Park skatepark that opened last fall.
“It was the thing he loved to do,” Keith said.
At an informal vigil held Thursday near the George Street site where Waye, 14, was struck and killed on March 5 by a driver who never stopped, petitions were passed around calling for the city name the skatepark for Waye.
Waye’s father, Henry Waye, Sr, was among those who put his name on the lengthy list.
Steve Smith, who organized the petition drive, said Friday that he’s already got 350 signatures on the petitions – but he’s aiming for 5,000 by mid-April.
“I just want to take this tragedy and make something positive out of it,” Smith said.
The skatepark, opened after more than seven years of planning, is under the jurisdiction of the city’s Park Board.
Park Director Ed Swicklas said he’s heard of the interest in naming the park for Waye.
But, he said, there are some possible complications.
To begin with, Swicklas said, the park panel has a policy of waiting a year from the date of any naming request before it takes action. It’s meant to ensure that choices are made more coolly than may be possible soon after someone’s death.
In addition, the skatepark is technically located in Mrs. Rockwell’s Playground, an area deeded to the city generations ago for park use. Swicklas said the deed restrictions might make it impossible to name the skatepark for anybody other than Mrs. Rockwell, who would never have even seen a skateboard in her day.
Swicklas said that city lawyers can investigate the deed terms long before a year has passed so that park commissioners would know their options.
He said that even if the skatepark can’t be named for Waye – or if commissioners don’t like the idea – it might be possible to create a living memorial as part of the landscaping for the skatepark. That wouldn’t require the same level of bureaucratic and legal work.
Three eighth grade girls at Memorial Boulevard School – Jesslyn DesJardins, Nicole Worrell and Jenelly Ramos – said that because their friend Henry liked to hang out at the skatepark, naming it after him would be a nice gesture.
Smith said that Waye was there on the day the skatepark opened last fall and returned many times.
“His whole life was skating and bicycling,” Smith said.
Smith said that Waye was “just an outstanding kid” whose death hurt more than just the boy’s friends and family.
“The whole town’s had a loss here,” Smith said.
Want to sign the petition?
The organizer of the petition drive, Steve Smith, said that petitions are available at the Valero gas station at 105 West Street. He said he’ll be trying to get other businesses involved as well.
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