Tuesday, September 11, 2001

New parks cater to skateboarders

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jimmy Crist, 20, performs an 'ollie' at Baker Bowl Skate Park in Middletown.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        Once the outlaws of the sporting world, extreme-sports enthusiasts — skateboarders, in-line skaters and stunt bike riders — are finding new respect.

        At least seven Tristate communities — from Florence in Boone County to Clermont County's Miami Township — are considering plans to build skate parks.

        There is now only one free public skateboard park in the Tristate — Middletown's Baker Bowl Skate Park in the city's Smith Park. Others are private and require membership or per-session fees.

        Opened in June 1999, the 22,557-square-foot concrete facility in Middletown attracts skaters from as far as New York, California and Florida, said Denise Bolton, city recreation administrator.

Joe Meehan, 18, performs a 'board slide' on a 'kinked rail' at Skatefest, a portable skateboard park set up in the parking lot of the Mt. Washington Church of Christ.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        “I think it's great,” said Clifton resident Brad Rodenberg, 18, a nationally known skater who's been ticketed for skateboarding on a Norwood street and in a downtown Cincinnati parking lot. “There definitely needs to be more skate parks.”

        Of the many extreme sports, skateboarding has become internationally recognized with hordes of young fans and participants.

        Skateboarding champ Tony Hawk, often described as “the Michael Jordan of action sports,” boasts his own line of clothing, a best-selling autobiography and namesake video games. Mr. Hawk, winner of this year's Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, has been profiled in in such disparate places as the skateboard magazine Thrasher to The New Yorker.

        Each summer, 9,600 youthful Tony Hawk wannabes train with action sports' most recognizable face and upward of 20 other pros at the Woodward Camp in central Pennsylvania.

        “With action sports, there's no coach, no team and no field,” said camp program director Bob Lewis — “just the rush of adrenaline you get from flying in the air to (mastering) a trick to jumping down steps to grinding down handrails.”

        For $220 to $250, a participant can buy a skateboard and the necessary safety gear, Mr. Lewis said.

Skateboarders wait their turn at Skatefest.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        Tristate interest in public skate parks has been fueled by several factors, including:

        • Aggressive lobbying by skaters and their parents.

        • Help from state legislatures — including Kentucky and Ohio — that have passed laws prohibiting local governments from being sued because of accidents at public skate parks.

        • The growing popularity of ESPN's highly rated X Games, which debuted in 1995.

Popularity spreads

        Evidence of skate parks' growing popularity can be found throughout the Tristate:

        • In August, Florence City Council decided to move forward with plans to build a skate park behind the city's government center on Ewing Boulevard. The skate facility would be geared toward preteens and teen-agers on in-line skates and skateboards.

        That pleases moms such as Paulette Delk of Petersburg, Ky., who 10 years ago drove her oldest son, Kevin, now 24, to a Kokomo, Ind., skate park 162 miles away. In recent years, she has chauffeured her youngest child, Lewis, 14, a half-hour north to a for-profit skating facility in Sycamore Township.

        • The Kenton County Mayors Group is studying whether to build a skate park in Pioneer Park or somewhere else. Officials hope to soon get a site plan from Brandstetter-Carroll & Associates that addresses everything from environmental issues to accessibility to right-of-way at a possible Pioneer Park skate park site.

        “I think everybody believes that concrete is the way to go,” said Fort Wright administrator Larry Klein, a member of a countywide skate park committee. “We definitely want to design something that has beginners in mind, as well as the more advanced skateboarders and in-line skaters.”

        • In Clermont County, Miami Township trustees recently mailed bids out for what would be Greater Cincinnati's second public skate park. Trustees hope to have the park under construction this fall.

        The park would be partly funded with a $30,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and township funds of up to $60,000. Officials are hoping to get companies to donate much of the required asphalt, steel and lumber.

        • In Butler County, officials in Hamilton and Fairfield are discussing whether to build a skateboard park, possibly in Hamilton's Joyce Park. They have commissioned a feasibility study from Mel Durand of Suburban Rails in Athens, Ohio, a nationally known skate park designer.

        • In Union Township, Clermont County, officials plan to solicit bids this fall for a skate park project, possibly to be built in Clepper Park by summer 2002. Trustees' interest in the project was sparked by Taylor Kubik, 11, a three-year skateboarder who came to the board's April meeting armed with a list of companies that build skate ramps, as well as information about how other communities had built skate parks.

        “I just wanted a different place to skate than my own neighborhood,” said the sixth-grader at Calvary Christian School in Taylor Mill. “Other places had skate parks and I wondered why we didn't have one.”

        • In West Chester Township in Butler County, a skate park is among the recreational features included in a master plan for development of the township's Voice of America Park.

        • In Anderson Township, the park district has formed the Beech Acres Skateboard Park Committee to study the feasibility of a skate park.

        Meanwhile, the Mount Washington Church of Christ is co-sponsoring a weekly skate ministry 4-8 p.m. Tuesdays that will run through October at Beech Acres Park, 6910 Salem Road.

        Formed by a skater who wanted to preach the Gospel to skateboarders, the Christian outreach program is affiliated with Calvary Chapel of Northern Kentucky in Erlanger and draws an average of 125 skaters per session, said Mike Foster, who helps administer the program.

"No place to go'

        Joyce Hoffman, manager of Franklin Savings and Loan on Beechmont Avenue in Anderson Township, said she has mixed feelings about skateboarders.

        While she worries about an accident or damage from skaters who are fond of ramping over a parking lot guardrail, she can relate to their plight.

        “I've had verbal altercations with some of the skateboarders,” Mrs. Hoffman said. “But I also feel for them because my daughter is a skateboarder and a bicyclist (in Goshen Township) and she complains all the time that there's no place to go.”

        Across the United States, most public skate parks advise users to wear protective gear, while private facilities generally require protective gear as well as a liability waiver signed by the skater (or a parent if the skater's under 18).

        Like many governments that have built skate parks, Middletown financed Baker Bowl through public-private partnerships.

        Thanks to donated labor, materials and supplies, Middletown paid just $40,000 to develop a skate park that would have cost $500,000 to $600,000 to build had the project been bid.

        Baker Concrete Construction Co., a Monroe firm that donated much of the material and labor, worked with the city to solicit donations from 24 other companies.

        “(Skaters) do annoy citizens and businesses at times,” said Clermont County Sheriff Tim Rodenberg, the father of eight-year skater Brad.

        “They've even been accused, sometimes wrongly, of vandalizing things,” Sheriff Rodenberg said. “These parks are a good alternative to that. They take (skaters) away from strip malls and businesses and parking lots where they can create harm or do damage.”

Tristate skating facilities

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