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Club wants skate park on new rec land

"Hoping to give scores of young skateboard, in-line skate, and BMX bike enthusiasts a place to to practice their derring-do, the South Whidbey Rotary Club will try over the next few months to raise enough money to build the Southend's first skate park.Keying on this week's vote over funding the purchase of 30 acres of new South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District property, the club is looking to the new park space as the ideal site for a skate park. Jack Hoover, a member of the club and an ardent promoter of the skate park idea, said building the facility would create a place where skaters are welcomed and encouraged to practice their sport. At present, the only place where skateboarders can practice is in large parking lots, on sidewalks, and in other areas where pavement is plentiful.Unfortunately, Hoover said, most local businesses and communities discourage small-wheel sports in their parking lots and streets. In Langley, the activity is outlawed. So when skateboarders do practice, they are often breaking the law.I'm tired of seeing signs that say 'No skateboarding here' and 'No skateboarding there,' Hoover said. Kids that skateboard have a bad reputation.Ricky McBride, a 15-year-old South Whidbey skateboarder, said about the only place open to skateboarders is the South Whidbey High School parking lot. And that is nothing like a real skate park.Two years ago, McBride placed several of his own skateboard ramps at the South Whidbey Community Park for skateboarders to use. Those have since decayed in the weather, leaving skateboarders with no challenging places to practice. A skate park would draw skateboarders, McBride said, ending the years-old conflict between boarders and local business owners and law enforcement.That would probably bring a lot of kids there, he said.Hoover and the Rotary Club presented their plans to fund a skate park to the Parks and Recreation District board last week. Although the board did not take an official action on the request, members individually gave their approval to the plan. Hoover said a proper skateboard park on South Whidbey might actually cost less than the $120,000 Oak Harbor invested in the one it built a few years ago. He said club members have toured other parks and are trying to get input from local skaters to decide on a final design. At the very least, the park would include sloped walls called a half-pipe, a pyramid, and a slide rail.Parks director Jerry Cole said the district is interested in the skate park proposal and will consider having it in the park, as long as its construction comes at no cost to the district. The club will begin fund raising after this week's election. If voters do not approve the purchase of the new park property, Hoover said Rotary will have to work with the parks district to find a site on its existing property.To learn more about the Rotary skate park effort, call Jack Hoover at 341-2352."

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