City tells grieving mom to take down son's roadside memorial

City tells grieving mom to take down son's roadside memorial »Play Video
Andrea O'Connor (center) is fighting the city of Hillsboro to keep the roadside memorial dedicated to her son at its current location. Scotty O'Connor died at the spot after falling off his skateboard, hitting his head.

HILLSBORO, Ore. – The city of Hillsboro is telling a woman who lost her son in a skateboarding accident to take down the roadside memorial set up to remember him.

"We come here knowing he took his last breath here on his own and in some silly way we think maybe he can hear us here," says Scotty O'Connor's mother, Andrea.

But the city says it can no longer ignore complaints from the public about the memorial located on Southeast Imlay Avenue.

The family says the memorial is actually saving lives, because it promotes their charity aimed at getting people to wear helmets. But the city told Andrea the memorial had to go by next week.

Scotty wasn't wearing a helmet when he hit his head while skateboarding that day one year and one month ago. His mother still comes to the memorial to talk to her son, the lovable, big bear of a high school football star.

"There’re days of anger, but most of the days, I'm telling him I love him," Andrea says.

Friends put up the memorial on public property, which the family keeps well tended. It's a regular destination for Scotty's friends. And through their charity website, the family has inspired others to wear helmets while skateboarding.

But the city says one year is enough for the memorial to stand and some neighbors have complained.

"(They) say it's depressing, it's sad, 'I don't want to look at it anymore' – others that are really concerned about the distraction that it causes on the side of the road," says Mary Loftin, Hillsboro's spokeswoman.

On Tuesday Andrea went to the City Council.

"We're coming to you because we have nowhere else to go," she said.

It turns out her efforts exposed a loophole in city law that doesn't regulate roadside memorials. The city got its one-year deadline from county law.

"We think during the time of this review, that it would be appropriate that the memorial could stand as it is during the review period of time temporarily until we can figure out what an actual policy would be," Hillsboro parks director, Steve Greagor, told city councilors.

That means the memorial can stay for a few more months at least.

"I am satisfied that they're willing to listen," Andrea says.

Andrea also says she's fine with replacing the memorial by planting a tree nearby, but the city says it's not a suitable place for a new tree because it's such a narrow spot and utilities run through it.