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Kids, parents rally to promote skatepark

Lorna McDaniel

Frustrated kids, parents, county parks and recreation staff and board heard an hour and 45 minutes of public comment Thursday on a proposal to build a skateboard park exposing what some called discrimination.

About 50 kids and 15 of their parents were rallied to attend the parks and recreation commission meeting by youth asserting the need for a skate park because nearly all properties with asphalt ideal for skating are posted “No skating.”

Business and property owners have complained to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, resulting in tickets and arrests of youth for trespassing, disturbing the peace and vandalism.

“Skateboarding is not a crime,” said Dan O’Sullivan wearing a T-shirt with the same statement. “We have gotten a bad reputation because a very small minority (of skaters) have cause problems with business owners.

“A skateboard park could eliminate these problems.”

He added, turning to the audience, “Remember, skate drug free and tobacco free.”

The 15-year-old avid skater and his family were instrumental in circulating more than 200 fliers inviting skateboard park supporters to attend the meeting.

Board members and staff were supportive of the proposal yet repeatedly said more information and organization were needed.

Recreation commission chair Vicki Veris addressed the group gathered at the County Administrative Building while restless kids skated outside on the new sidewalk.

“I think you’ve taken a very important first step by coming forward,” she said.

She suggested the kids start a petition, “something that says ‘hey, we’re not just a bunch of hoodlums on the street we’re organized and we’re willing to work to get the ball rolling.'”

Scott Morgan, director of parks and recreation, said, “We look forward to working with the community on this project and we can put it on the agenda at any time but we have to have something to work off.”

Dillon Sauer, a 10th grade Douglas High School student, reminded the board that his math class submitted a skateboard park report to parks and recreation last year which included costs to build and insure.

Carson Valley Middle School 9th grade teacher Andy Vecchione said in an interview that his students collected 3,000 signatures in support of a skate park and their proposal was passed by both the parks and recreation commission and the county commission.

Morgan said the report was not complete and details on the location and funding were needed.

“It is a fairly lengthy process that goes into putting these types of improvements in,” he said, adding later that he was under the directive of the county commission to cut expenditures.

Commission member Stan Lamb, a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office sergeant, said in his effort 2- 1/2 years ago – prior to his seat on the commission – to provide a skate park, he had offers for land and material donations.

However, he said the project died.

“Scott Morgan and I spent hours and hours and hours on the project but we had no parental support.

“I suggest that you guys form a committee,” he said with his arm stretched out to the audience, “and tell us where we are going to locate. Get involved with how people will enforce the rules. Get organized and give us an idea of what the costs are.

“Nobody is against you, but don’t rely on government to hand you something. You have to work for it.”

Eric Robie, owner of Out of Bounds board shop in Carson City, said parks and recreation should be willing to take more of the responsibility to provide the park for the community because most parents work.

“The police take lots of time writing tickets to skateboarders on the street,” he said.

He said if the parks allocated even 300 square feet of one of the existing parks, police could patrol that area instead.

Debi Ramey, a parent, said she realized the lengthy process of getting the park built and called for a temporary skating area “where kids can go and not be harassed.

“It’s obvious that skateboarding is getting a bad name,” she said. “I know a lot of good kids who are good skateboarders. I don’t want to run over them with my car and I don’t want them out drinking, smoking and doing drugs.”

Newly appointed recreation commissioner Robin Reedy suggested that the skateboard supporters organize skate-related activities sponsored by the recreation department, “because it is obvious that you are going against a lot of discrimination.

Reedy replaced Mike Hoffman, who resigned.

Reedy, a management analyst and securities administrator for the State Office of the Treasurer, said she wanted to get involved with the commission to try and maintain the parks structure during this time of reduced funding.