Skating down the new park

As I grew up, skateboarding was one of the most positive things in my life. It helped me bond with my older brother. I learned how to work hard and set goals to progress in my boarding skills. I put down the video games, got active and made memories.

Seeing the city of Siloam Springs invest in a nicer skate park reminded me of all the good times I had at my local skate park in Cloverdale, British Columbia – but I suppose at 21 I am still young enough to dust off my board and scoot around a bit. And I did.

The new park, built a stone’s throw from the old one, is a vast improvement. The old park was difficult and unforgiving. The rough concrete made flowing through the park a chore. Skate wheels are small, hard disks of rubber and cause the rider to feel every rock, bump and ripple. The concrete also had long cracks where one slab meets another. The decade- old prefabricated metal ramps and rails in the old park have seen better days. The thin plates that are supposed to ease the transition from concrete to ramp are curled up from the metal warping. For someone building up speed to gap the tabletop, this means a mouthful of concrete. The ramps are dirty, rusty, covered in graffiti and have sharp metal edges.

The new park is draped in buttery concrete which makes getting around a dream. The design is much less crowded. Skaters can flow around the park and build speed easier. The features are also less sanitized than the old park, which was stitched together from a catalog of pieces. This park is unique and more organic. The hand rail and hubba ledges are the perfect height and mimic skating on the street. There is even a full mini ramp – it’s like a half pipe, but mini.

Most larger cities don’t have skate parks this nice and most cities never asked locals what they wanted. Mayor David Allen and Streets Director Randy Atkins made sure that the entire park was designed and critiqued by local skaters. They spent several Saturdays down at the old park chatting with skaters and writing down their desires. It was built by Siloam skaters, for Siloam skaters.

The result is fantastic. Not just in terms of skating, but in terms of government. Allen and his people could have used the $90,000 budget for the park on another project. They could have ignored the kids and cut corners like with the first park, buying cheap, ready-to-ride junk. But instead, they decided to invest in what many would consider the city’s delinquents. And many do. Skaters are labeled as lazy, drug users and vandals. Not the athletes they are.

Kids need things to keep them busy, active and motivated. Soccer and basketball aren’t for everyone, and now Siloam Springs has a safer, cleaner and better skate park for those kids.