Skateboard group proposed

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When Josh Flaharty, 17, started skateboarding about four years ago, he was hooked immediately.

"I just enjoy it. I don't really know why," Josh said. "I can let go. ... Everything disappears when I get on a skateboard. It's like a whole new world. I don't even have to be at a skatepark -- I can just step on it and start riding, and my mind goes clear."

Years before Josh was born, his mother Elizabeth Flaharty discovered her own love for the sport.

She and her girlfriends would get together after school, walk their small plastic skateboards up to the top of a hill, then ride straight down, stopping only when they ran out of steam on the next hill's upward slope.

"We would just fly down that hill, and my mother, she would just look the other way," Elizabeth said. "We were crazy."

Together, Elizabeth and Josh started a skate group about two years ago when their family was living in Beloit, Kan. The group formed to raise funds to build a skatepark in the town.

Josh and his friends asked the city council in Beloit for funds for a park, and the city council directed them to raise some money on their own to show how serious they were and then come back.

Elizabeth was at that meeting and took the lead for the skate group, which eventually raised about $4,000 during a year.

Youths were involved at every level, coming up with ideas for what sort of park they wanted, collecting and crushing cans to make money, organizing other fund-raising events and more.

Although the group did not raise enough money for the full $37,000 cost of a skatepark, it made a start, Elizabeth said.

After moving to Oak Creek last summer, she decided to try to start a similar effort, with the goal of helping to build a local skate park for youths and adults to enjoy.

The jumps and obstacles needed for a park were going to be supplied by a Great Outdoors Colorado grant that is paying for a new roof on the ice rink. But because of increased costs related to that project, the skatepark equipment was put on hold.

So, Elizabeth has organized several meetings this fall for anyone interested in starting a skate group, and about five children -- mostly sixth-graders -- have shown up. She's hoping to get a larger effort going after the holidays, raising awareness of the need for a skateboard group.

Without a skatepark, she said, people end up skating down the highway -- Oak Creek's Main Street -- or playing around in the parking lot of Soroco High School.

"There is no place, we have all dirt streets," Elizabeth said.

For Oak Creek children who can't drive or don't have their own cars, a skateboarding park would create great opportunities for staying busy in the summer and fall, Elizabeth said.

There are many stereotypes of skateboarders that aren't true, she emphasized. Many people associate skateboarders with "rough kids," she said.

"I think people really need to get to know these kids before they make a judgment on who they are, what they're like, and what they do," she said.

Elizabeth doesn't skateboard now because she has bad knees, but she loves to watch Josh and others skateboard.

For many youths, skateboarding is an ideal outlet, because it is safe compared with other sports, challenging but rewarding, and something they can do by themselves or with other friends, Elizabeth said.

"It's kind of a self-esteem booster, because if they work really hard and really hard on one trick, and then they land it, ... it's like, 'Wow, I did it,'" she said.

"(It's) just a chance to do something successful on your own."

The outlet for self-expression also is important, she said.

"Other than being a sport, it's an art," she said.

Josh said that self-expression comes through each move a skateboarder makes, as there is no one way to do something.

"People have different styles -- the way they enter a ramp, the way they exit, the way they do a kick flip," Josh said. "Everybody does it differently. Everybody has their unique way."

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