Archive for Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Skate park proposed

Site between Chieftain Park and VFW Park touted

March 7, 2007

Skateboarders say they don't get much respect.

"Anywhere here we go to skate, we get kicked out of," said Jeff Carlin, an eighth-grader at Tonganoxie Middle School.

In recent months, a group of Tonganoxie area residents has been rallying to establish a skate park. This is not the first time this discussion has come up. About six years ago, a group of young teens and their parents urged the city to build a skate park. That time, nothing came about.

The current group is persistent. It's established a not-for-profit organization called Ride n' Roll. Members are attending city council meetings. They're embarking on a fundraising project. And last week, with Tonganoxie Mayor Dave Taylor, who is pushing for the skate park as well, they selected a site.

The proposed site is on the north side of First Street between Chieftain Park and VFW Park. It's alongside Tonganoxie Creek, just east of the footbridge that crosses from the gazebo area to Chieftain Park.

A safe place to go

Lloyd Hale is one of the local adults involved in raising funds to build a skate park. Children need a safe place to ride, Hale said.

"Some of the kids don't understand it's not a good idea for them to be skating around plate glass windows and around traffic," Hale said. "It would only take about one instance -- with a kid either being hit by a car or going through a plate glass window and being severely injured -- that would pay for a skate park -- a single incident."

Kenny Carpenter, Tonganoxie's chief of police, said it's against the law to ride skateboards on Tonganoxie streets. And, in the downtown area, it's illegal to ride bicycles or skateboards on the sidewalk.

A skate park would give youths a place to ride.

"That's one of the pros of having a skateboard park," Carpenter said.

But Carpenter added, if a skate park was built, it must be in a visible area.

"The main thing is visibility so people wanting to do wrong things won't have the opportunity," Carpenter said.

Taylor said the site works because it's far enough from homes that it shouldn't be a problem. The area already has electricity, lighting and water. It's within walking distance of the park's restrooms. And it's a visible location.

"I guess the most important thing that I was thinking was that it's visible for our police department to check and make sure that our children are having fun and there's no one there to harass them," Taylor said.

Outlet for kids

Sunday afternoon a group of youngsters who like to ride skateboards, inline skates and BMX bikes showed at the proposed site to view the area.

Bill Jones, one of Ride n' Roll parent organizers, estimated it would take about $300,000 to complete a skate park. The facility could be used for inline skate and BMX bicycles, as well. Jones said a structure about 100 feet square would be about the right size. A typical skate park is about the size of a tennis court, he said.

"It's a flat piece of concrete with ramps, bumps and handrails for them to skate on," Jones said. "It's like an obstacle course."

To Jones, who has one son, and Hale, who has two sons, the idea is to keep kids active.

"To find an outlet for maybe some of the kids that aren't necessarily involved in all of the organized sports," Hale said.

The bike and skate park would be ideal, Hale said.

"It would be a pretty good place for them to go and hang out," Hale said. "Where the proposed area is it's off of the main part of town but still close enough that parents can still keep an eye on the kids."

It can be done

Meanwhile, the skateboarders scour the town for places to skate. They've tried skating at Chieftain Park, where it is allowed.

"But there's a whole bunch of little kids there," Jeff Carlin said. "Either you're going to get hurt or they're going to get hurt."

Seth Ahart, a sixth-grader, said the location would be good. Like his friends, if he goes to a skate park now, it means parents must take him out of town.

Nick Meador skates around Tonganoxie. And he suffers the consequences.

"I skate all the time," said the seventh-grader. "Sometimes I get in trouble three or four times a day -- a police officer or the high school -- they tell us to get out. Sometimes people will politely tell us to leave but that's very rare."

Anthony Guerrero rides a BMX bike, taking a spin at skating parks in Lawrence and Lenexa.

"We used to ride here and then we got kicked off of everything," said Anthony, who's a sophomore at Tonganoxie High School.

Kyle Skinner is another biker who likes to ride, but has a difficult time riding where people don't complain about it.

"I like this location," said the seventh-grader of the area Mayor Taylor was eyeing for a skate park. "It would work perfectly."

Like his friends, Kyle said it's difficult to find a place to ride or skate.

"They tell us to get off everywhere we skate," Kyle said. "We get kicked off at least seven times a day."

Weston Jones hopes Ride n' Roll's efforts will result in a skate park for Tonganoxie. Otherwise, he noted, he and his friends must resort to skateboarding in streets.

"We just get kicked out everywhere we go," Weston said. "There's no place left to ride."

Like his parents, Weston is optimistic.

"I think it can be done," he said.

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