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Let the skating begin

Dave Gardiner, owner of Freeland
Dave Gardiner, owner of Freeland's Half Link Bicycle Shop and a freestyle bicyclist, catches air on opening day at the new South Whidbey skate park.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

The skate park is open. Early.

This week, the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District announced that local skateboarders and other extreme wheeled athletes have a place to flip out, grind, jump and roll a few months ahead of schedule. Suzette Hart, the district's director, said since the concrete banking and stairways were poured a few weeks ago, it's been almost impossible to keep eager skaters out of the $150,000 facility at the South Whidbey Community Park. So instead of trying to fight it, she declared the skate park open as of Thursday.

Though scaled back from designs originally drawn up over a year ago, the finished park still has a lot of obstacles for skateboarders and bicyclists to conquer. There are half-pipe curves, metal railings, jumps and grinding surfaces where both freestyle bicyclists and skateboaders can slide on the metal portions of their boards and bikes.

Skateboarder Francesco Ward, 14, showed up at the park right after school Thursday to try every one of them, even though the concrete and metal was a bit slippery from the day's rain. He's been checking on the progress of the work at the park regularly, waiting for opening day.

"I like it a lot," he said after skating around the park for a half hour.

Ward's father, Ron, endorsed the early opening. He believes it will be a draw for children who would otherwise skateboard where they are not wanted.

"It's nice to see a place where kids can do this stuff," he said.

Also giving the park a try was Dave Gardiner, owner of Half Link Bicycle Shop in Freeland. An experienced, adult freestyle bike rider, he made quick work of the park. Saying the park is for riders and skateboarders with beginner or intermediate skills, Gardiner was nonetheless enthusiastic.

"I want to see kids riding," he said.

The skate park is also open to inline skaters. All those using the park are asked to wear safety equipment. The park closes every day at dusk.

Suzette Hart said the parks district will give the skate park a grand opening in the spring, after a paved "apron" is built around the park and landscaping is finished. The park was built with money raised by Rotary of South Whidbey and through a state outdoor recreation grant.

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