Room for boards

Skateboard advocates push past stereotypes

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— Of the 50 or so skateboarders who gather every day at the city skateboard park at Howelsen Hill Park, at least as many equip themselves with helmets as with earrings and nose rings.

Skateboarders at the park note there is still a counter-culture image attached to skateboarding that acts as a stigma when city money is doled out every year. But as more parents and youth activists get involved in the effort to build a better skate park, that stigma has begun to fade away.

"There's nothing hostile, angry or wrong with skateboarding," said Cassandra Krause, the wife and mother of two die-hard skaters. Krause said she can't think of any better activity for her 6-year-old son or her husband, for that matter.

"My kid is an active kid, a pushing-the-edges kind of kid," Krause said. "Skateboarding is great for him."

Ian Snook, a 15-year-old skater, said the park used to be filled with more people drinking alcohol and smoking, but in the past few years, the substance abuse has fallen off. Snook, who has skated at the park for four years, said he goes to the park to meet friends and teach younger skaters as much as to practice his own moves.

Krause is at the forefront of a movement to build a new skate park to replace the wood and metal ramps that need constant maintenance in the current park.

Her hope is that the city will build a concrete park that won't take the same beating from the elements.

The skate park has drawn more and more young people, in addition to 25- and 30-year-olds whose connection with the sport harkens back to the days when Tony Hawk performed his first trick.

But the facility, as identified by everyone from parks and recreation staff to the skaters themselves, leaves a lot to be desired.

Parks Supervisor Mike McCannon said he drives by the decade-old skate park every day and inspects the facility about three or four times a week, checking all the ramps and the rails to make sure they're safe. He says the city will spend about $5,000 to $10,000 to fix up the park this year, but trying to keep up with maintenance at the heavily used park can be a losing battle.

The metal on the ramps sometimes peels away from the wood frames and screws fall out, leaving some obstacles with names like "the shin buster."

And though skaters and parks workers don't see the park as particularly dangerous, they do notice the deterioration.

McCannon, whose kids skateboard, said the onus falls on advocates for the park to get the ball rolling and find the money for a new park.

Although it is a city facility, the skate park needs a devoted group behind it to gather support and perhaps some seed money, McCannon said. Most of all, they need a plan.

Other groups looking to enhance city facilities have had more luck, possibly because they have had more far-reaching plans, said City Councilman Paul Strong.

When the proponents of a new refrigeration system and locker rooms for the Howelsen Ice Arena came to the city this year with a business plan and a long-term facilities plan for the city-owned rink, along with $700,000 in cash pledges and in-kind contributions from businesses, the city approved its financing.

The skate park advocates may need a similar long-term plan to get their goals accomplished, though the cost of a skate park would likely be closer to $200,000, Parks and Recreation Director Chris Wilson said.

Skaters have asked McCannon for everything from lights to an enclosed park in addition to the concrete idea but have not yet come to him with an organized vision and a way to accomplish it, he said.

Enter Krause, the managers of the Click (a shop that sells skateboards) and Young Life counselor T.C. Johnston, who are meeting this week to start coming up with a plan for a new park. Krause sees the park as part of her overall scheme for alternative sports in the valley. She said she thinks the skate park, along with the nearby BMX park, can act as the center for an alternative sports complex.

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