A park of their own
Alan McFadden's driveway is a testament to his sons' interest in skateboarding.
There's a ramp, a quarter pipe and other equipment, much of which was built by his sons, Jacob and Jared, and their friends.
Knowing the interest that local kids have in skating, McFadden and his wife, Lisa, would love to see a skate park built nearby. They even signed a petition at Gulf Coast Surf and Skate Co., 6572 Seminole Blvd., asking the city. http://skateszone.com/boys-market-riding-skateboarding-wave/
Aimee Vaillancourt, co-owner with her brother Rob of the skateboard store, said they had the petition out until about a year ago for customers to sign. One customer, an elderly woman who wanted her grandchildren to have a safe place to skate, took it to church to get more support. Before the Vaillancourts put it away, the petition had about 700 signatures.
Vaillancourt said she and her brother started to approach the city but never did because they did not know when the council met. And when they contacted recreation officials, they said they were told the idea was on the back burner.
"It's something we'd like to see happen, and not just for our own benefits,'' Vaillancourt said.
The issue, if not the desire for a park, seemed to die in the community.
But recently, one council member has tried to revive the idea. In recent months, John Counts has repeatedly raised the issue only to have other council members brush off the prospect.
The reason: Seminole officials considered building a skate park a few years ago and even found a location, but neighbors complained about the proposal. So the city dropped the idea.
That's where it remained until Counts seized the issue.
Counts is not a skateboarder and says he knows no one who is. He did not know about the Vaillancourts' petition, but he says he became convinced there is a need for a park after watching kids dart around the parking lot at Indian Rocks Shopping Center when he managed a bank there. Afterschool skateboarders were a constant, he said.
"It was just a matter of time, I felt, before someone got hurt or killed,'' Counts said.
A park devoted to skateboarding would get most of the kids off the streets and out of the parking lots and other parks, he said. It would also add value to the city, he said.
Counts raised the topic again at the July 12 council meeting, with the same results.
"The concept is not dead,'' council member Patricia Hartstein said. "I don't think we're ready. I would prefer to just let it simmer for a while.
Mayor Dottie Reeder agreed, saying the city has not done anything for seniors. A senior center, she said, is next on the agenda. http://skateszone.com/best-skateboarding-shoes/
"We can only do so much at one time,'' Reeder said.
The council discussed conducting a survey to see if there is a need for the park. But Reeder said that could be dangerous if the results indicated that people want a skate park.
"If you're going to ask people if they want something, you better be prepared to deliver it,'' Reeder said.
Largo, St. Petersburg and Clearwater have skate parks. Pinellas Park does not, although one is on the drawing board in the form of a $336,050 unfunded line item in the city's capital improvement plan, Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell said.
"Every time I've been in conversations about it, there seemed to be a problem where to put it,'' Caddell said.
Indian Rocks Beach has had a skate park since 2000. It's closed right now for repairs after a minitornado hit it Memorial Day weekend, said Dean Scharmen, the city's public services director.
But when it is open, Scharmen said, it's "packed up all the time.''
"It's constant. It's a big draw.''
The main problem, he said, is enforcing the pad rules. Kids understand the need for helmets and are willing to use them, he said, but they're less willing to wear pads even though they know city rules require them.
"That's the biggest issue we've had,'' Scharmen said.
Vaillancourt said she hopes Counts is successful in his quest.
As it is, she said, some of the kids who come to her store have been cited for trespassing in city parks and elsewhere after trying to skateboard in forbidden locations. Other kids take to the streets.
"There's not much within walking distance for them other than to trespass,'' Vaillancourt said.
"It's not an ideal situation for kids to be in, but what other choice do they have?''
Jacob McFadden, 9, skates daily in his family's driveway, which has a ramp, a quarter pipe and other equipment. He's often joined by his brother, Jared, 6, and their friends - sometimes a dozen at a time. Jacob and Jared's parents, Alan and Lisa, would love for Seminole to build a skate park nearby. Jacob said he would use a skate park once a week. http://skateszone.com/seminole-weighs-wallet-priorities/