Archive for Thursday, September 2, 2004

Trail grows cold at end of sidewalk

Local skateboarders petition city for new park

September 2, 2004

"Two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential. . ."

-- From the 2003 skateboard documentary, Dogtown and the Z-Boys

It's words like these describing the imaginations of vibrant California teens in 1976 that are credited with helping inspire not only the resurgence of skateboarding, but also its evolution from a novelty to one of America's most popular sports.

In its embryonic stage, skateboarding was considered a fad as fleeting as the Hula-Hoop or the Yo-Yo. Today, it's almost impossible to label skateboarding as anything but a major force in sports and popular culture.

Millions of viewers tune into the X-Games each year. Skateboards and like-equipment account for millions of dollars in annual sales. There's even been talk of adding skateboarding to the list of Olympic events.

Not bad for a sport that began with planks of wood nailed to chopped-off roller skates.

The only thing alternative about skateboarding today seems to be the conservative philosophy that the sport is for troublemakers or rebel-rousers.

In largely populated areas, skate parks are common fixtures of park and recreation departments. However, in the suburbs, skate parks are less common.

What happens to the youths here locally when the imagination and potential skateboarding thrives on lies dormant? It's a problem two Basehor youths are currently addressing.

Neither Justin Berry nor Michael Pauley, a sophomore and freshman at Basehor-Linwood High School, respectively, are delinquents looking to make waves. They're generally well behaved, earn decent grades and visit the Basehor library on a routine basis.

They're also skateboarders, an activity that, while embraced by some, has drawn scorn in their hometown.

"We're not any different than anyone else," Michael said. "We don't want to get in trouble. (Skateboarding) is just something we do for fun."

"There isn't anything for kids to do in Basehor," Justin said. "Skateboarding is our big hobby. It gives kids something to do. Keeps 'em off drugs."

Justin and Michael are currently petitioning Basehor city officials to allocate money toward the construction of a municipal skateboard park. So far, they have acquired 130 signatures on a petition they plan to submit in coming weeks. They say a skate park is necessary for them and teens like them because there is no place to skate in the city.

The teens said authorities have told them skateboarding is illegal in the city and have threatened the duo with fines and confiscation of their boards if they didn't comply.

"It's (happened) quite a few times," Michael said.

"I've lost track," Justin said. "If we (ride skateboards) we're thinking a cop is going to stop and say something."

Contradictory to what Justin and Michael say police have told them, Basehor city officials said they've found no municipal law preventing skaters from riding their boards on the city's sidewalks. Basehor city administrator David Fuqua said the warnings were most likely caused by confusion and that the city has taken steps to prevent any further mix-ups in the future.

"We haven't found anything that says they can't skate on the sidewalks," Fuqua said. "As long as they make room for pedestrians, they'll be fine."

Although sidewalks are in-bounds for skaters, the playing field is still strictly limited in most other areas. Because of insurance and liability issues, the Basehor-Linwood School District does not allow skateboarders to ride at any of the district's playgrounds or parking lots, school officials said.

Basically, when the sidewalks end, the trail goes cold for Basehor's skateboarders.

Michael and Justin usually visit nearby skateboard parks, such as those in Wyandotte County Park or Lenexa, once a week. However, visits are sometimes infrequent because the teens and others like them are dependent on rides from their parents to get to the park.

Tony Hawk sure didn't have this problem, they say.

"(Pro skateboarders) didn't have to wait once a week for a ride to the skate park," Justin said.

Not only are the local teens trying to solve the problem, they're also suggesting a possible solution. City officials have discussed using vacant land east of Basehor City Park -- a site that once housed lagoon cells -- as a possible location for athletic fields.

Michael and Justin said a portion of the property could be used for their coveted skate park.

"We have baseball fields everywhere already," Justin said.

Fuqua said he's met with the teens about the dilemma and encouraged them to circulate the petition. Action precipitates change and the teens should be praised for taking the first step, he said.

"They showed initiative by coming up here and trying to get a straight answer," he said. "We should at least give them some attention."

Michael and Justin said they're encouraged by the city's willingness to consider their plight and are optimistic something positive might come as result of their situation.

And, if there ever comes a day when Basehor is home to a skate park, you can expect to find Michael and Justin as frequent fixtures. The only thing better would be if the city built sidewalks leading to it, they quipped.

"Every day," Michael said with a smile. "We'd be there every day."

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