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A place to fly
by Scott Reese Willey and Gary Kent
Jun 14, 2009 | 1564 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ken Thorpe of Onalaska, Texas, grabs some air at the Ingleside Skate Park. He said the skate park near his hometown is much smaller than Ingleside’s. “This place is awesome,” he said.
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Skate parks serve a small fraction of the population but add value to a community.

That’s the message shared by city leaders in Portland, Rockport and Ingleside – all of which have skate parks.

“We have a small group of people, a community of serious skaters, who use the skate park on a continuous basis,” said Mike Tanner, city manager in Portland. “We may be as few as 10 skaters on a weekday but as many as 50 or 60 skaters at any one time on a weekend. Or, there may not be any skaters in the park at all on any given day.”

He said the $400,000 skate park, built seven years ago with taxpayer money, has helped keep skaters off the streets — and off of private property.

When the city council first started considering the building of a skate park in 2002, Tanner cautioned them about focusing too much on revenue.

“Skate parks are like libraries. You don’t build a skate park to make money; you build a skate park to give kids something to do, to give people something to do,” he explained back then.

Tanner says the skate park adds to the quality of life in Portland.

“I think it was a good thing for this community to build a skate park when it did, because today people in other communities across the state know that Portland has a skate park,” he said.

Oscar Adame, who oversees the parks and recreation department in Ingleside, said the community’s skate park is a “valuable asset.”

“It gives our young people something to do, and attracts a lot of people from out of town to our community,” he said. Many of those visitors shop for fuel and food during their trips to Ingleside, which benefits businesses and taxpayers, he said.

Stacy Day, who works the concession and ticket stand at the Ingleside Park, said skaters come from communities across the state.

“We have skaters who come here from Austin, San Antonio and even Brownsville,” she said.

Adame couldn’t put a price tag on the elaborate concrete skate park because it was built as part of a larger park project that included a covered basketball court, walking trails, concession stands and restrooms.

The city applied for and received a grant from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to help pay for the project.

The Ingleside skate park also draws a small group of regular users, Adame confided.

“I don’t think we ever expected to see a lot of skaters on a daily basis using the skate park,” he said.

Both the Ingleside and Portland skate parks are concrete and feature a wide variety of bowls, tacos, lunchboxes, streets, rails and waterfalls for skaters to have fun on.

The City of Rockport got into the skate park business in 2005 after a grass-roots effort on the part of people convinced the government that a facility was needed.

Rockport Parks Director Tom Staley said the project was funded mostly with city funds and with a small grant from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

To help interest the state in funding the construction of the park the city included a number of other facilities in its plan and proposed to build it as a joint operation with the city’s municipal swimming pool.

Staley said the project included a little walking trail and some new shade structures for the pool area.

The skate facility is a “street style,” modular park designed on a flat, concrete slab with grinding rails, quarter pipes, pyramids and other structures bolted to it.

“We didn’t include any concrete bowls,” Staley said. The structures on the slab can be removed so that the facility can be easily remodeled.

“It can be reconfigured. It has more flexibility,” Staley said.

He said the park was designed by Rhino skate park systems and built by a Houston company which specializes in building the Rhino product.

“It’s extraordinarily durable stuff,” Staley said. “I can’t see assuming it won’t last forever.”

The director said having the park as part of the city pool complex has made it easier to monitor the activities there. Skaters must enter the complex through the gate to the pool.

“We check to make sure they have helmets,” Staley said.

Knee and elbow pads are not required. “All we ask them to do is have a helmet on.”

Admission to the skate park is $1 apiece. But for a fee of $3, the skaters can also swim before or after they skate.

Staley said construction time was “not very long; about two months to complete.”

The mistake the city made was trying to get by with city employees doing the assembly and installation of the structures on the slab.

“We quickly found out that was a bad decision.”

The city then contacted a construction firm in Houston which does assembly work for the Rhino systems.

From that point on, the construction went without a hitch.

Average daily attendance is about 15 skaters during the offseason.

“It stays consistent,” Staley said. “A lot of the same ones keep coming back.”

Tourists who are in town on vacation also come to the park and the facility attracts a number of out-of-town skaters from around Rockport.

Staley admitted that there were problems at the park at first. “I don’t know that it’s what it used to be.”

Tanner, in Portland, and Adame, in Ingleside, say they have few problems with their skate parks.

“The kids who skate here appreciate the skate park and won’t do anything to mess it up,” Adame said. “We have had some problem with vandalism and graffiti in the other sections of the park but not the skate park section.”

Tanner said the concrete skate park in Ingleside is mature now and easy to maintain.

Also, the park did help stop skaters from using private property to practice their sport.

Was building the park worth the investment in keeping skaters off private property?

“It’s probably a better question for the police department,” Staley said.

“From my standpoint, I’m glad we didn’t spend any more money than we did,” he said.

As far as lawsuits, Staley said there have been none. “But we have had some injuries.”

There have been some broken ankles and one broken arm among the skaters. The pool facility is staffed by trained personnel who know how to administer first aid.

“I think parents like knowing that if we have an injury, we have a paid staff there to handle it.”

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