OPINION: Time to shake off pool bond, focus on skatepark

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category icon Editorials, Opinion

For anyone who ever got their kicks skateboarding — or even simply watching, photographing and videotaping skateboarders as they flew and twisted through the air — there is something thrilling about the fact that the sport is finally getting international recognition and that many public leaders are setting aside outdated, negative views about providing public spaces for skateboarders to safely practice intricate moves.

The international recognition comes via the sports inclusion in this year’s Summer Olympics games in Tokyo, Japan. Although the sport is one of a handful of Olympic additions — including surfing, karate and sports climbing — that aren’t guaranteed to return to the international games, the 2020 nod by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) speaks to the sport’s relevance with younger viewers age 18-34. That’s the crowd the IOC is trying to win back with its addition of the younger, “hipper” sports.

“The Olympics needs this youth cool factor in their programming and they’re going to get it with skateboarding in the summer games the way that they got it with snowboarding in the winter games,” skateboarding legend Tony Hawk told Business Insider magazine in August 2019.

The fact that Business Insider is writing about skateboarding shows how far the sport has come.

There is a long history of adults showing disdain for skateboarding in the United States. This editor still remembers a photo published in her hometown Pennsylvania newspaper in the late 1980s, which showed a scrappy group of teen boys holding “Sk8boarding is Not a Crime” signs in front of a skateboarding shop a few of those young entrepreneurs had managed to open on a rundown block devoid of any other retail shops. The city had cracked down on skateboarding, making it illegal for those same skaters to even ride their new boards out of the shop and they were protesting the skateboarding ban.

The slogan “Skateboarding is Not a Crime” referred to the barrage of laws passed in the 1980s and 1990s that made skateboarding in public illegal, while allowing similar activities such as roller-blading.

Times have changed since then, of course. Now, skateparks are common throughout the U.S., and skateboarding has moved into the mainstream. Research into the sport — and the impact of public skateparks — has shown that young skateboarders who have access to outdoor or indoor skateparks report they spend more time out of their homes, are more physically active, communicate more with their peers and feel more valued by the adults in their community.

This is why we’re excited to see the new Lunchmoney Indoor Skate Park in Washougal, which opens this weekend, succeed in its endeavor to, as co-owner Rochelle Ramos told the Post-Record for this week’s issue, “provide a safe and positive environment for (youth) to hang out and be more active.”

We’re also hopeful that city leaders in Camas will refocus their attention on that city’s outdoor skatepark, now that the community-aquatics center debacle of the November 2019 election is in their rearview mirror.

As we’ve noted before in this newspaper, the Riverside Skatepark, built in the early 2000s as a joint venture by Camas and Washougal, has deteriorated significantly over the last decade, leaving skaters in the community without an easily accessible, fully functional outdoor skatepark.

Washougal skateboarder Tim Laidlaw has been trying to appeal to city leaders for several years and has done what he can to keep Riverside in working order: hosting clean-up parties, gathering support on the “Riverside Bowl” Facebook page, getting local architectural firms to pitch in with revamped park designs, speaking at city meetings, looking for grant money and throwing fundraisers like the June 2019 shindig that drew skaters to downtown Camas for an evening of shredding and fundraising for the local park.

But the responsibility of keeping the Camas skatepark going shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of just one man and a group of dedicated skaters. Rather, city officials should figure out how they intend to fund and maintain the park that is part of their inventory of public recreational spaces.

In a January post to the Riverside Bowl Facebook page, Laidlaw said his group is still “on track for a late 2020 to early 2021 build” at the skatepark and added: “Imagine all that could have been accomplished had the money and focus of the failed drive for a $78 million aquatics center been focused on existing parks in need of attention.”

We can second that sentiment, and hope to soon hear more from city officials in Camas about what they’re doing to maintain and sustain their local skatepark.