Dover on board with skate park

Dennis Broomell, 31, of Delaware City, competes in the Intermediate Class of the Summer Vibes Skate Fest held in Rehoboth Beach on Saturday. (Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

DOVER — It appears as if a push to have a skate park built in one of Dover’s city parks remains very much alive after receiving support from members of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Enhancement Committee Tuesday night.

A skate park was one of several amenities listed on the Schutte Park Master Plan when it was approved by Dover City Council on Feb. 27, 2017.

The initial Schutte Park vision was to have the skate park and other improvements — which included a finished loop trail, expanded field space, a disc golf course and rain gardens — installed in four separate phases over the next eight years.

However, the city planner at the time cautioned that the timetable for adding the amenities might be “somewhat ambitious,” due to lack of funding.

James West, of Lewes, is the current president of Skate Epworth, a nonprofit organization underneath the Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach that started in 2008. (Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

Last Tuesday, a total of 14 skateboarding enthusiasts hoping to remind city council members that the closest skate park to Dover is at Smyrna’s Municipal Park on Main Street, about 15 miles to the north, showed up at the Council Committee of the Whole meeting at City Hall to rekindle the effort to bring a skate park to the capital city.

While a definite location was not pinpointed for a skate park — either Schutte Park or Dover Park are the frontrunners — members of the Parks, Recreation and Community Enhancement Committee did inform the skateboarders that plans for a skate park, as well as for a dog park, will be moving forward.

Louie Pierce, 8, of Lewes, competes in the Beginner Class of the Summer Vibes Skate Fest held in Rehoboth Beach on Saturday, Aug. 17. (Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

“We have looked at a skate park and we have looked at a dog park and looking at our space limitations in our parks, staff came back with a recommendation that those would be a better fit at Schutte Park,” City Manager Donna Mitchell said.

City Council President Bill Hare gave the thumbs-up to the skateboarders.

“There’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” he said. “I think there’s still some things that we can move ahead and do and things we can get started on, such as a skate park at Schutte Park. I think that would be good.”

The skate park advocates said they’re just looking for a place to practice their craft in Dover so they wouldn’t have to keep traveling to other cities to do it.

James West, of Lewes, is the current president of Skate Epworth, a nonprofit organization underneath the Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach that started in 2008.

He said adding a skate park to the city’s amenities would be a positive thing for Dover.

“I’ve seen the diversity and the community skateboarding brings in having people coming together,” Mr. West said. “I’ve seen children from the age of 2 to grown men 60 and 70 years old come out to the skate park. Honestly, a skate park will benefit anything.

“I’ve heard (city council) talk about Schutte Park. Schutte Park might be the best (location) because with a skate park over time you can raise money and always expand, so if the park wants to be expanded, it’s possible.”

Mr. West suggested the city follow Epworth’s skate park blueprint and build “a bowl,” which resembles an inground swimming pool without the water.

“What we did at Epworth, we knew we could take a chance and just build a half-pipe, which is pretty much u-shaped, or we could build a bowl, in which anybody could skate,” he said. “A bowl’s (edges) goes from about three-and-a-half feet to eight feet.

“As far as when it comes to the design of a skate park, the best thing that we’ve seen fit when it came to Epworth was getting the input from the skateboarders, because you don’t want a skate park to get built and be nothing that anybody wants to skate on.”

Mr. West said that since building the bowl at Epworth they have added a street course “for those that like to skate street obstacles.”

Mr. Hare noted that one of the skate park advocates was on crutches and joked that he hoped it wasn’t the result of skateboarding.

“You can get hurt playing football and basketball, it doesn’t matter — anything,” Mr. West said.

When a skate park does get finished in Dover, participants will undoubtedly have to sign a “skate at your own risk agreement” in order to use it, much like the facility at Epworth does.

Long battle for Dover skaters

Eugene Stone, of Dover, said he has been trying to get his hometown to build a skate park for a long time now, and he was encouraged by what he heard from the parks committee Tuesday night.

“I just wanted to thank (city council) very much for considering having a skate park,” Mr. Stone said. “I was a part of the skate park committee a few years back and obviously we were unsuccessful, but I do recognize a lot of these guys (at last week’s meeting).

“I used to own a bicycle/skateboard shop off of Governors Avenue, so I knew the need was there and I’ve actually been skateboarding since the late 1980s. I lived on an Air Force Base in Japan that had one of the first skateboard parks in the Far East.”

He added, “I know it’s a good thing for a community, it brings people together, brings generations together. I thank you very much and it’s a great day for Dover.”

Blakely Gustafson, of Dover, said he and some friends had built a do-it-yourself skate park across the road from the Proctor & Gamble plant on West North Street. However, a business elected to construct a building at that site, which forced the closure of their homemade park.

He said he was excited about the possible Schutte Park location because “it’s just a hop, skip and a jump away” from where he used to skate.

“I know location is still an issue, but at least we have a few options now as to where it can be,” Mr. Gustafson said. “It sounds like it’s going to end up at Schutte, which would definitely be cool because we’re all close enough to Schutte to where it will be a breeze to get there.”

City Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. was impressed with the skateboarders’ passion for their pastime.

“I just wanted to thank you for coming forward and being so diligent and persistent with bringing forth your ideas to city council,” Councilman Sudler told the group. “A lot of people have ideas throughout the community and quite often we say, ‘Well, in order for us to support your idea we need to see you in (council chambers).’

“So, kudos to all of you who took the time to be here for an interest that you have found to be common.”

Recreation … and creativity

Skateboarding is one of those rare sports where the participants can enjoy getting some exercise as well as be creative doing it — and it doesn’t have to be super expensive.

Dover’s Mackenzie Nicholson said her parents took her to Smyrna’s skate park when she was younger and she now she has a pair of baby girls who she would like to share the experience with — but in Dover.

“I just like everything about skateboarding — all of it,” Ms. Nicholson said. “The exercise … it’s like an outlet when you get out of school and you go down to the skate park where you can just let that steam off. Now, we’re 27 or 30 years old and we can just come off work and just let it go.

“I have bills to pay, I have a mortgage to stress about, but you can just go out and not have to worry about that for a while.”

Depending on a skater’s ambition or skill level, it can be a very inexpensive activity.

Ms. Nicholson said, “You can just go to Wal-Mart and get a board and a helmet and you’re good to go.”

For Mr. Gustafson, skateboarding has had such a positive impact on his life that he’d like to share it with others.

“When I was younger it taught me that no matter what pushed me down, I can always make something of it afterwards,” he said. “I can always get back up and find something else to tweak the way I’m doing something — and this applies to all aspects of life. It didn’t work that way, but I can tweak it a little bit and I’ll try it again.

“Skateboarding is just a great way to keep active. You don’t have coaches or anything telling you what to do. There are so many different styles of skateboarding. You can explore, so whatever interests you, you can do that. If you don’t like this certain style of skating, you don’t have to do it.”

Mr. Gustafson added, “You can just do what you want to do and it’s just the feeling of landing something, learning something new, or persevering through the failures … it’s the best feeling in the world once you finally figure it out and you get it and land it, it’s such a relief and such a feeling of, ‘I can do this, I can do anything.’”

Skateboarding tricks

air: riding with all four wheels off the ground; short for aerial

backside: when a trick or turn is executed with the skater’s back facing the ramp or obstacle.

Caballerial: a 360-degree turn performed on a ramp while riding fakie (backwards), named after skater Steve Caballero

carve: to skate in a long, curving arc

fakie: skating backwards—the skater is standing in his or her normal stance, but the board is moving backward (not to be confused with “switch stance”)

frontside: when a trick or turn is executed with the front of the skater’s body facing the ramp or obstacle

goofyfoot: riding with the right foot forward, the opposite of “regular foot”

grind: scraping one or both axles on a curb, railing, or other surface, such as:

crooked grind: grinding on only the front truck while sliding

50-50 grind: grinding on both trucks equally

nosegrind: grinding on only the front truck

5-0 grind: grinding on only the back truck

kickflip: a variation on the ollie in which the skater kicks the board into a spin before landing back on it

McTwist: a 540-degree turn performed on a ramp, named after Mike McGill

mongo-foot: a style of pushing where the back foot is kept on the board and pushing is done with the front foot

nollie: an ollie performed by tapping the nose of the board instead of the tail

noseslide: sliding the underside of the nose end of a board on a ledge or lip

ollie: a jump performed by tapping the tail of the board on the ground; the basis of most skating tricks

railslide: a trick in which the skater slides the underside of the deck along an object, such as a curb or handrail

regular foot: riding with the left foot forward, the opposite of “goofyfoot”

shove-it: a trick performed by spinning the board 180 degrees beneath the feet while traveling forward

switch stance: riding the board with the opposite footing than usual, i.e., “goofyfoot” instead of “regular foot”

tailslide: sliding the underside of the tail end of a board on a ledge or lip

Types of skateboarding

street skating: skating on streets, curbs, benches, handrails and other elements of urban and suburban landscapes.

vert skating: skating on ramps and other vertical structures specifically designed for skating.

half pipe: a U-shaped ramp of any size, usually with a flat section in the middle

vert ramp: a half-pipe, usually at least 8 feet tall, with steep sides that are perfectly vertical near the top.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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