Don’t skate past this opportunity

Published 6:57 pm Wednesday, August 26, 2009

As we begin this column, let me just say I know nothing of skateboarding.

My brother had a skateboard, which was kept in the garage, but the most activity it got from me was when I created a makeshift wagon with it to drag my Barbie Dreamhouse down the street to my friend Kelly’s house.

Clearly, it wasn’t my thing growing up, and I never got into it later in life.

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That said, it has become more and more obvious to me that we need to create a skate park here in Suffolk.

Last week, I went to Bennett’s Creek Park to cover the Skateboarding Expo thrown by Suffolk Parks and Recreation. Actually, the expo was more of a litmus test than demonstration. Suffolk Parks and Recreation officials held the event to help gauge the level of interest within the city for creating its own skate park.

Dozens of children – from ages 8 to 18 – came out for the event, even though it was held on a Wednesday afternoon in what can only be described as hellacious heat.

But they didn’t care.

These kids were “ollieing” and “indygrabbing” and “feeblegrinding” to their little hearts’ desires.

They were outside, having a good time and learning from one another.

Why wouldn’t we want to support this?

It seems that every day in the newsroom we receive more press releases about how the city wants to engage youth in some new way in order to lower school dropout rates, avoid gangs or stay away from other crimes.

We’ve created youth symposiums and youth academies to talk to students about what they think could help solve these problems. We’ve created disc golf courses and horseshoe pits and renovated recreation centers, all with the aim of providing the city’s children with more recreational opportunities.

These are good and important tools to get us the needed solutions, but we should not rely so fully on focus groups that we forget about the most important piece of information — participation.

Right here and right now, the youth of the city are showing city leaders precisely what they want and, more importantly, what they would use. They don’t need a daylong conference to brainstorm ideas; just by showing up they are saying they want a place to go skateboard.

Why not chase down the ways to make it happen?

The people have spoken, now it’s time to get the city on board … so to speak.