Local skateboarders and inline skaters scored a victory earlier this month when the Royal Palm Beach Village Council agreed to include construction of a skate park in the village’s five-year capital plan. Despite concerns that it could end up like the skate park built a decade ago at the recreation center — which quickly lost the interest of skaters — the latest proposal is off to a promising start and has every chance to succeed.
After having met with local skateboarders and a skate park supervisor, Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio made a convincing presentation in support of a new park. We commend Recchio not only for working with the skateboarders, but also for researching and recognizing that the sport should be given more legitimacy. While it was seen as a fad in the 1980s, waning in popularity by the end of the decade and remaining so until the emergence of the X Games in the mid-1990s, it has remained a mainstream sport for years now. Yet, there is still a stigma attached to it because many people still consider it a sport on the cultural fringe. But as Recchio noted, skateboarding is a multi-million-dollar industry and more popular than baseball for ages 6 to 17. Even so, as Recchio pointed out, the amount of land set aside for sports such as football, baseball and soccer is about 12,000 times the size of land set aside for skateboarding.
Twenty years ago, the only place to legally skateboard in Palm Beach County was Atlantis Skateway’s Tuesday night “Skate Night.” There was also a cement ramp and “bowl” in Lantana, but it was so horribly designed that most skaters never bothered. Contrast that with the county’s West Boynton Skate Park today, which is very popular, primarily because it was designed correctly and isn’t a hassle for skaters; it’s free, makes few demands of skaters and there’s no complicated registration process.
Recchio is correct that the key to building a lasting park is to let skaters design it and have movable ramps to keep the layout fresh and thus maintain their interest. Also, thanks to recent state statutes, municipalities have been given more freedom from liability in the case of injuries, and only helmets are required, rather than full protective gear (elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards), which can be a deal-breaker for many skaters.
Many skateboarders are too young to drive and would benefit from having a park within skating distance to their homes. With a park nearby, it would reduce the number of skaters in parking lots and other places where it’s illegal. The key is to keep the skaters involved. If they can have a say in the process, then there’s no reason it can’t succeed.