Time for a place to grind

Published 11:33 pm Saturday, August 22, 2009

Skateboards and tennis don’t mix well under typical circumstances.

Generally speaking, the sight of a couple dozen skateboarders shredding on public tennis courts would result in a bevy of angry calls to the police, followed by a visit to the courts from the men in blue and a warning for the skaters to move along or face the consequences.

Wednesday’s circumstances, however, weren’t typical, as more than 30 children and teens brought their boards to the tennis courts at Bennett’s Creek Park to try out the ramps and rails brought along for the event by ARC, a leading national designer of obstacles and layouts for skateboarders to ride. And it all happened under the watchful and approving eyes of city officials, who were keen to see how much interest there would be in a local skateboard park.

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Nobody got rousted, there were no ugly incidents and the turnout for the event was a clear indication that there is substantial local interest in the concept.

Suffolk has been pondering the idea of a skate park for some time. With the level of participation at similar parks in Isle of Wight, Franklin and even the tiny town of Boykins in Southampton County, it’s actually a bit surprising that the city still doesn’t have a place where kids can go to practice their grinds, kick-flips and tailslides.

A monitored facility where helmets and pads were required would be a relatively safe place for young skateboarders to go that would get them out of streets and parking lots, where their fun poses an unacceptable level of risk for themselves and bystanders. As a city-run facility, it also would have the benefit of regular police patrols that would reduce the likelihood of it becoming a hub of illegal activity.

To be sure, there are some legal hurdles that would have to be cleared. But Suffolk officials easily could consult with those who operate parks in neighboring localities to learn how to limit their liability in case of injury. And by working with a nationally known skate park builder, the city would be more likely to construct a facility that would provide a long-term challenge for young skaters, while enduring the rigors of heavy use.

The response to Wednesday’s trial run confirmed the need for such a park. Suffolk officials must now look for ways to meet that need.