Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Florence getting on board: Skate park to open May 31



By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FLORENCE - When the Mobile Skatepark Series leaves town next week, Tristate boarders, skaters and bikers will have a new permanent place to ride in Florence.

The 20,000-square-foot Florence Skate Park, scheduled to open May 31, is expected to draw skaters and bikers from across the region.

"It's amazing," said Josh Solomon, 17, of Burlington. "It's different than any of the parks in the Tristate."

For instance, BMX bikers, which are banned from many skate parks, will be welcomed in Florence.

The park features a street plaza area, a street course and a bowl area, which offer something for every level of skater, Solomon said.

For Solomon, next week's opening is the culmination of three years of lobbying Florence and Boone County for a place to ride. The recent Heritage Academy graduate collected petitions and attended county parks' planning meetings.

"There was no place to skate," said Solomon, who added he and his friends tried to skate behind grocery stores. "We'd always get kicked out."

Now, Solomon is part of a committee of skaters and bikers who will help run the park. Though most of the nine members are high school students, the members' ages range from 14 to 28.

"We look at them as stewards," said Ken Hund, Boone County parks and recreation director and co-chairman of the committee. "They are kind of our watchdogs since they are going to be using it."

The committee, which has been meeting for about two months in preparation for the opening, wrote rules and regulations for the park.

Though the committee won't staff the park, "it's a good bet that on any given day one of them is going to be there," Hund said.

Florence Parks and Recreation Administrator Vanessa Lenear said she decided to form the committee after visiting the skate park in Miamisburg, Ohio.

"This is a good way to for us to have the participants take ownership in it," said Lenear, who also co-chairs the committee.

The skate park was built through a partnership of Florence and Boone County, with each footing $500,000. The park at Ky. 18 and Ewing Boulevard will be open from dawn to dusk.

Admission is free.

E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com




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