Skateboard park needed in Rockford

Skateboard park needed in Rockford

 

Reading Mr. Blakeslee’s comments about a skateboard park being an ill advised consideration comes as no surprise. He thought the White Pine Trail was ill advised at its inception.

Really, another skateboard park in Rockford? There never really was one.

Even back in the mid 90s, the definition of skateboard park was a “purpose-built recreational environment that may contain half pipes, quarter pipes, spine transfers, handrails, funboxes, vert ramps, pyramids, banked ramps, full pipes, pools, bowls, snake runs, stairsets, and any number of other objects.” I could go on, but why? Rockford Skateboard Park had none of these. Zip, zero, zilch. This was an 80 by 80 piece of flat asphalt. And if I remember correctly, skateboarders were warned, “not to bring anything in the skate park” by the city.

Currently, Michigan has 96 active skateboard parks from Alpena to St. Claire Shores to Benton Harbor to Harbor Springs; some cities larger than Rockford, some smaller. Within these 96 cities, they have found the answers. Most of the 96 communities, if not all, have experienced their problems and have resolved them. Issues not unlike Rockford’s.

As Mr. Blakeslee notes, “there were problems, and next year and the year after that it will be different kids, too.” Nine to fifteen-year-olds showing up year after year? I find that to be an encouraging and vibrant outlook for the Rockford community.

In some aspects any discussion about a skate park is similar to when the White Pine Trail was introduced to Rockford. It was met with hesitation, some not wanting it nor seeing a purpose for the trail. Even when some were explained to that the trail might actually become a destination spot for trail users, skeptics seemed to find that complete fabrication. Frankly, by the time Michigan started their Rails to Trails, many states had trails up and running, end in every case they were an overwhelming success.

The same is true for a well thought out skateboard park. Just ask Traverse City, Midland and Lansing. Those are destination parks as well as many others around the state.

Where to place a park? Vacant Wolverine land. Are you familiar with the Meijer Skate Park in Brighton? It was achieved by fundraising. The city already had the business community fund the city’s first debacle. Good money wasted. That would be a daunting project but not insurmountable. Ninety-six cities found a way.

One of three things need to be done: First, hopefully the city could look like at least they had an idea of what a skate park is really like and stop referring to what was nothing but an 80’ x 80’ slab of asphalt placed at the North Middle School and called by someone at City Hall a “skate park”. Just because you say it’s so doesn’t make it so. Even by City Hall.

Skateboarders looked at the slab and asked, “They did that for us?” Seriously? It’s still an embarrassment and a joke to the skateboarding community.

Second, join in an honest discussion without the decades of smoke and mirror antics that normally go with skateboard park meetings from the city, and finally find someone to seriously discuss the possibility of building the park.

Or, third, finally make known to the community that kids aren’t welcome downtown. Take out those pens and write another new ordinance not allowing children, especially skateboarders, downtown in Rockford city limits without the supervision of their parents. Something the city has seemingly favored for years.

Until a skateboard park becomes a reality, instead of a semi-annual dialogue on such an ill advised venture, skateboarders will still play cat and mouse with the police. They will skateboard where they are not supposed to because there is no place they are allowed to. It’s a ridiculous circle perpetuated by the city. Police chasing kids, this is a waste of money that has been occurring for over a decade. I believe the money could be better spent on improving parks and recreation. Mr. Blakeslee has made it perfectly obvious that Rockford is not in the “parks and recreation” business.

Because of the nature of the skateboarding business and because neither the following nor the participation has decreased, this is a sport that is not going away.

Update on skateboarders from 1997 and 1998 (no names to protect the innocent), but several skateboarders from those years that were always “causing trouble downtown” are currently productive citizens: a mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, eco-system specialist, heating and cooling specialist, and I could happily go on with more great stories about successful young men and women today, who back in ’97 would hide throughout downtown Rockford playing cat and mouse on their skateboards with the police for entertainment.

It is a sport, it is a group, it’s also an age you can experience all the thrills you can dream up and still move the next morning. And as with any sport, any group, there are the troublemakers. But, as with any group, they all deserve respect from the start. It’s just not right, on so many levels, to classify a certain group as trouble over the years. It’s just wrong, and skateboarders over the years in general are immediately looked at as trouble by Rockford.

Over 96 cities in Michigan, with the help of their Mayors, City Councils, City Managers, Police Chiefs, parents and kids, have found a way to co-exist with skateboard parks in their communities.

Rockford has had numerous opportunities in the past decade plus to discuss a skate park. But the real question really seems to be if the city actually would allow kids to have a Class A skate park in a Class A community.

Daryl Busen

Rockford Skate Shop

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