Some of you probably read the article in last week’s paper written by Noor Dawood “Help Bring a Skate Park to Anderson Valley.” I met Noor when she first came to Anderson Valley and had a desk next to mine when she was the After School Program director and I was the school’s Community Liaison. I know her understanding of teenagers is good and that she is a fair and energetic advocate for their best interests. Now the mother of two young boys (with her husband AV teacher Nat Corey-Moran) she is also looking to their futures. We had a long talk about the proposed Skate Park. She told me that discussion of having a park goes all the way back to Jerry Cox and Nat discussing it 15 years ago. She also told me that Skate Boarding has been an Olympic sport since 2020!
As a non-athlete my entire life, my interest in Skate Parks was not high and I was not very interested but she really turned me around. There are so many good reasons for providing the kids in this valley with a Skate Park and I want to share some of them with you. Noor suggested I reach out to some young people for comment and one young man, Ernesto Macias sent me such thoughtful answers to my questions that I will start by letting you read what he has to say on the Skate Park subject.
Question #1 - How would the Skate Park personally affect your life?
“The proposed skate park will affect me because I'll finally have somewhere I can skate and not be worried about being kicked out. When I was younger, I didn't mind getting kicked out of spots for skateboarding because I figured it just came with the sport. Now, as an adult, the idea of being kicked out of a location for skateboarding just sounds embarrassing. Luckily I can drive to actual skate parks since I have a license, but there's only so much time in the day, and we live about 45 minutes away from the nearest skate park. Plus, gas is not cheap!”
Question #2 - What are the qualities that make a Skate Park especially valuable?
“The quality of a skate park that makes it valuable to young people is that it gives them a place where they get to be free. Skateboarding is one of the few activities where there's no one dictating what they should or shouldn't do. They get to grow at their own pace; there's no grade for it, and everybody has their own style. Not even school sports have that same accessibility. If they're not good enough, they spend the whole season on the bench or get cut from the team. That doesn't happen at a skate park.”
Question #3 - How do you think having a Skate Park will improve life in Anderson Valley?
“I think having a skate park in Anderson Valley will improve life for the town in the sense that it can unite us. For being such a small town, there isn't very much community. There are a few events that bring out large portions of the town, but even then, most people aren't aware of one another. Building this skate park will take a whole community effort. It'll be something we must all help build and maintain. Skate parks are one of the few things to build that all people can enjoy. They often lead to much more than just skateboarding. They become a community hub where many events can take place, such as art galleries, music events, pop-up shops, family gatherings, etc. Building this skate park has the potential to bring back the sense of community that our small town desperately needs.”
Question #4 – (See end of this article.)
If you are interested in what the kids think about the Skate Park idea you can see them speak for themselves on the well constructed project website designed by Kellie Crisman at avskatepark.org. One point they all seem to make is that they do enjoy skateboarding and currently skate wherever they can find a likely spot. One person interviewed on the website said, “If you don’t have a skate Park in your town then your town is a Skate Park”. This can lead to skateboarding on the highway around traffic, on concrete curbs and ledges that may chip and over gravel where spills mean injury.
Positive aspects of a Skate Park include providing a non-competitive and non-judgmental space for kids to test their limits. Skateboarding is difficult and fosters perseverance and humility (everyone remembers their first day skating and the spills they took). Also the parks foster the camaraderie of sharing a challenge and learning from each other while welcoming in new skaters. All this is happening outside in the fresh air while young muscles are getting a chance to develop and become better coordinated. One skater Mom observed that for kids who have been dealt a bad hand in life it is an energy outlet for a rough upbringing. A safe place and a place to forge a positive identity. In short a good way to keep kids out of trouble.
As for the Service Learning Team they have learned to speak in front of groups of people in public and learned to listen to and respect differing opinions. They have sat through long meetings to get to the piece they were interested in learning patience. They have learned to put together a convincing package of information. Most important of all they have learned that they can make a difference. For Noor this is the big pay off, what the kids have learned.
Especially interesting on the website is the story and video of what happened in Laytonville in their process of building “The Little Skate Park that could”. Other towns that have parks are Ukiah, Willits, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa and Fort Bragg. Many of the concerns people have about the local impact of a park have been answered by these already existing parks. In general the positives outweigh the negatives by nine to one. When asked if Skate Parks attract unwanted behavior it was noted that they actually do the opposite by inspiring people of all ages to enjoy healthy activity…The proposed location for the Skate Park in the Community Park near the Health Clinic is an open highly visible area making it unattractive for sketchy or illegal activity. The lack of such a space encourages youth to “hang out” in less visible areas (like under bridges or in empty houses or cars).
This project was originally initiated by students in the AV Jr./Sr. High Service Learning Team (SLT) a student group dedicating to improving our community. On this project they are working with the Community Services Parks and Recreation Committee who is acting as the fiscal sponsor. A community-planning group is also being formed to help guide the process. Open community meeting also will be held.
It does seem that Anderson Valley needs more public spaces for recreation and community building especially for kids. The goal of building the Skate Park is to help fill this need and to will encourage AV youth to be more active and make healthy connections. Skateboarding, roller-skating, biking and scooting will all be welcome and are all great outlets physically and mentally. The financing for the project will come from fund raising and grant writing. There are several significant grant opportunities out there but ownership of the land is a prerequisite to applying for that money. You can donate on the website.
What about liability? California regulation grants immunity to public institutions housing Skate Parks as long as a local ordinance is passed to establish safety rules and these rules are posted publicly.
What can you do to support the Park?
Visit the website avskatepark.org to find out. On the website you can sign a petition, make a donation and find out about current activities. Noor Dawood Service Learning coordinator can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
More immediately and urgently you can plan to attend the School Board Meeting on November 8th at 5:00 in the High School Library. This will be THE chance for community supporters to voice their opinion about the Skate Park. The reason the School Board is involved is a proposed agreement to pass the land needed to build the park from the school that currently own the property. As Ernesto replied to:
Question #4- If you wanted to convince someone to support the Skate Park - to vote in favor of building one what would you say to them?
“Older generations always talk about being concerned about the direction the youth or the community is heading. Even so, many rarely do anything to help because they don't know how to. Well, here's the perfect opportunity for them to help. To make this work we must all unite.”
ANDERSON VALLEY NEEDS MORE VIBRANT PUBLIC SPACES for people to come together and be active -- especially for our teens.
Students on the AV Service Learning Team are partnering with the Community Services District to address this need by developing a skatepark in Boonville -- and we're going to make this thing happen!
Please check out our new website for details: avskatepark.org
Want to help? Sign the petition
Show up to the AVUSD School Board meeting on Tuesday 11/8, 5:30pm -- This one is big!!! See website for details.
Spread the good word!
— Noor Dawood, on behalf of the Service Learning Team, Anderson Valley Adult School, Office: 707-895-2953