Boarders push for park

Chris Kime, an 18-year-old Dondero High School graduate, had just been kicked off the parking lot at First Federal of Michigan on Main Street in Royal Oak.

He and Dustin Wells, 21, say they were able to get in about 30 minutes of skateboarding on the bank’s smooth blacktop lot before being shooed away.

It’s something they are used to.

"If you go to the police department and pull my file you’ll see I’ve gotten nine tickets for skateboarding," says Kime, sporting a navy-blue Adidas cap along with a pierced tongue and chin. Wells, a landscape designer, says he also has gotten his share of tickets, but mostly for in-line skating. "I’ve had my Rollerblades taken away and had to walk … in my socks."

Kime and Wells are two of many young people who, along with some parents, would like to see an outdoor skate park in Royal Oak. Erick Wicks and Nick Bosse, both 14, requested such a park at a Royal Oak City Commission meeting last month. Mayor Dennis Cowan told them to draft a plan for consideration by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

Tom Trice, Royal Oak’s recreation director, said last week he hasn’t yet seen such a plan. However, Trice says the board plans to address the issue at a meeting Aug. 5 at the Senior Community Center, 3500 Marais.

The complaint from skateboarders is that they have no place in town to enjoy their sport. They’re not alone in thinking it’s time the city does something.

Alex Dombroski, general manager of Modern Skate & Surf on Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak, says at least 100 people have signed a petition at the shop calling for a skate park. He says some skaters and their parents are helping to circulate copies of the petition, which is to eventually reach city officials.

Skate parks have gained popularity across the United States in the past few years, especially in California, says Heidi Lemmon, spokesperson for the national nonprofit SkatePark Association (SPA) USA.

"It’s not uncommon for cities, after they put one park in, it works so well, they put another park in," she says.

Andy Sharkey, president of the volunteer Downtown Royal Oak Association, says, "Personally, because my kid’s a teenager, I think it’s a shame there’s nowhere for them to go. A skate park would be a great idea. They’re kids. They’ve got to play somewhere."

City Commissioner Laura Harrison says skateboarding isn’t allowed in the city’s downtown business district or in the civic center area because of the damage it does to curbs and other public property. Rollerblading also is prohibited around the civic center.

According to city officials, a skateboard park would involve important considerations including location, cost and liability.

"There’s a great liability exposure for the city," Trice says.

To avoid building skate parks, Lemmon says, it’s not unusual for city officials to exaggerate the liability issue.

Trice says skate parks cost anywhere from several hundred thousand dollars to millions of dollars. However, Lemmon says that figure can be as low as $10,000 for a wooden park.

Back at First Federal, Kime says the bank worker who asked him and Wells to leave was nice about it, but sometimes people aren’t very nice.

As if addressing the police, he says, "We’re just out here to have fun. Go out and bust somebody selling crack. Leave us alone."

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