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Skateboard Park belongs to kids

Spencer Hawkins demonstrates his skateboarding skills at Saturday’s ribbon cutting ceremony at the North Whidbey Skate Park. - Jim Larsen
Spencer Hawkins demonstrates his skateboarding skills at Saturday’s ribbon cutting ceremony at the North Whidbey Skate Park.
— image credit: Jim Larsen

The final stage of the North Whidbey Skate Park was officially opened Saturday, and now the facility belongs entirely to the kids.

About 60 skaters rolled up to the dedication ceremony, headed by Mayor Patty Cohen, Oak Harbor Parks Superintendent Hank Nydem and architect Terry LeDesky. After the ribbon was cut on the new “Donor Wall” which memorializes the project’s major supporters, the kids put on a skateboarding demonstration.

The skaters were a young bunch, leaving Spencer Hawkins, 18, the old man of the group. But even at his advanced age he put on a dazzling display of jumping and board control, an obvious indication that he has spent many hours in the park. “You can skate all day, every day,” he said of the facility, located near the Senior Center on SE Jerome Street.

Hawkins and other skaters all remembered the old days when they would skate in parking lots and on city streets. They all recalled being chased away by business owners or police. Now, they have a place to call their own.

“It’s cool,” said Brandon Price. “But it took a long time to build it.” Some of today’s skaters were toddlers when the Skate Park effort started 10 years ago.

Price wasn’t complaining, however. “We’re appreciative,” he said. The 18,000 square foot park has acquired a reputation as one of the best in the Northwest. The kids say it has attracted skaters from Mount Vernon, Anacortes, Sedro-Woolley, Bellingham, South Whidbey, Southern California, and even Massachusetts.

“It’s pretty bad (good),” Price said. “They like our park.”

It’s not yet perfect, however. The kids agreed they would like lights so they could skate at night during the fall and winter months, and James Rollins had one other request. “We need more entertainment, like cheerleaders,” he said.

Mayor Cohen noted the uniqueness of the park. “Seldom does the City of Oak Harbor open a facility to encourage young people to go as fast as they can, as high as they can, to break the limits,” she said. She was on the City Council 10 years ago when the city was first approached by “four or five 15-year-olds with a dream . . . it’s so exciting to see that dream a reality today.”

As the dignitaries spoke, the kids sat on their skateboards, resting precariously on ramps, slopes and concrete walls.

“We wanted to make this an investment in our kids,” said Cohen. She offered only one bit of advice to the teenagers. “Don’t get hurt,” she said.

Nydem, the parks director, recounted the park’s history. Phase one was finished in 1998 and the final phase started last June “thanks to a major contributor.” Total project cost was $150,000 in materials (including 250 yards of concrete) and contracted labor, and $90,000 in volunteer labor and equipment.

Terry LeDesky, the local architect instrumental in making the park a reality, noted that “the group of skaters we started with all went off to college.” A inscribed stone in the Donor Wall honors LeDesky as one who “conceived, designed and helped build our park.”

From his experience, LeDesky learned what can be accomplished with the right attitude. “Whenever you’re involved in a community project, reach for the sky,” he said.

Moments later, kids in the skateboard park were flying through the sky, having the time of their lives.

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