December 10, 2013

Bigger skate park a positive

The Daily Citizen

— Bigger does not necessarily mean better. But in the case of Dalton’s skate park, it does.

Three years ago, a teenage skater went before the Dalton City Council and proposed a skateboard park. In less than a year, one was built.

On the corner of Morningside Drive and Avenue C, the 5,000-square-foot skating area at James Brown Park has been well worth the effort, judging by its popularity.

Dalton Parks and Recreation Department officials say the park is well attended, at times often crowded as skaters wait in line for their turn.

Recently a group of about two dozen skaters, plus some interested adults, met at the rec center to discuss how and why the park should be expanded.

The top reason is demand. The park is often crowded with teens, young adults and children waiting for their turn. Apparently skaters obey a set of their own rules and etiquette for this, as there have been no reports of unruliness from gatherings at the park.

It was suggested that a separate area be included for the youngest of skaters, with older ones offering their services as instructors at set times.

This park is open all year. It gives skateboarders a place to socialize and exercise, no matter the temperature. The park helps get kids off the streets, not only out of traffic, but also into a safe environment where they can focus their energy outside of school.

According to the Houston Chronicle, a 2006 study published in Pediatrics found that skateboarders are less likely to smoke cigarettes or skip class.

And during a time of dangerously high childhood obesity rates, and the economic burden that comes from that, encouraging outdoor activity is a worthy investment.

Skate parks also have an economic impact in a way that other parks do not. Providing a dedicated location for skating creates a market for the small businesses that cater to the skating community, from skateboard shops to instructional jobs.

More land for a bigger park is not a problem, there is room on both the north and south ends of the area to expand.

Money, as always, is the major issue. It cost $100,000 to build the current park, it will take that and probably more to expand.

That is something the rec department commission can look into more this week when Steve Card, rec department director, who is in favor of a bigger park, addresses the commission. Card said last week the issue will be brought up again after the first of the year.

An expanded skate park would be a bonus not only for the rec center and skaters but also for a city looking to be progressive in promoting parks and outdoor activities.

The amount of use the skate park gets and the lack of major problems there make it easier to argue for a bigger and better park.