Editorial: The city must keep promise to skateboarders

May 10, 2004|CLAY JACKSON

Monday night at the Danville City Commission meeting, a group of young athletes will respectfully wait their turn once again to talk to commissioners about their promise to build a safe place to practice their sport. It's time for the city to make good on its promise to the local skateboarders.

Skateboarding is not a fad. It's been around for more than 40 years - no brief period of time. The sport started about 1959 when kids in Southern California took the wheels off roller skates and attached them to boards. In 1963, a surfer named Larry Stevenson began selling commercially manufactured skateboards through his company, Makaha.

Today, skateboarding is the fastest growing sport in America. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, the number of people who participated in the sport doubled between 1995 and 2000. With about 9.1 million participants in 2000, skateboarding compares to tennis and soccer in popularity.


While some may find these statistics hard to believe, one need only look to the wild popularity of ESPN's X-Games, or to the 2002 Tony Hawk skatepark tour in Louisville, teeming with skateboarders, bike riders and rollerbladers.

Here is a list of skateparks in Kentucky: Ashland, Frankfort, Radcliff, Somerset, Dayton, Owensboro, Henderson, Maysville, Winchester, Lexington, Louisville, Florence and Bowling Green. Some of these cities have more than one skatepark. There are more than 800 parks across the country.

Growing up in Atlanta, I was on the wrestling team and also played soccer and baseball. As a teenager, I started skating: to and from school and work, at night, in the morning, whenever and wherever I could. There were no skateparks in Atlanta even then, and I was often chased away from any place I chose to skate. My father, the woodworker and handyman that he is, built ramps for me and my friends and other local skaters to enjoy, providing us with a safe, legal, and supervised place to practice.

Danville has the money. Build it; they will come. The commissioners need to keep their word. Teach the youth that adults follow through with promises.

If all the city needs is a place to build, that can be worked out. One suggestion is Jackson Park. Parks and Recreation Director John Drake has said that if the neighborhood survived adult softball (and tailgating) then it will easily endure teenagers skating.

The idea is to use the abandoned tennis courts there. The appeal of the courts is that it is gated and can be locked up at night - that means if the neighbors want the kids out of the park at sundown it can happen.

The courts also provide a ready concrete surface. To put it elsewhere and pour concrete would double the price.

If Jackson Park is not the right area for the park, let's work together to locate an area. This goes back to the main point: Keep your word, teach the youth what it means to follow through with promises.

A skatepark will help the city. It will bring kids and families from other cities in the area.

It will bring in money, too. When kids skate, they get hungry. Parents will visit local restaurants. They will shop in Danville. Their kids may draw them here to play at our park, but then, like thousands of others, they will fall in love with the city's charm, and return.

We need to keep kids active. I love all sports, including baseball, basketball and football. Those sports have, and should have, public support. As a responsible taxpayer, homeowner, member of the community and skater, I feel the need to support the youth in any way possible to get this park. We need to get together and find a location.

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