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Vertical born again?

SALISBURY — Recently I had a conversation with a neighbor, and the subject of children came up. We suddenly realized we hadn’t seen any for some time. Every once in a while, we’ve noticed a child walking with Mom into the library in downtown Salisbury, and when school lets out we’ve glimpsed a tribe of these mysteriously elusive creatures getting off the schoolbus. However, I wondered if someone traveling through Salisbury might be a little creeped out by the surreal vacuum of tiny humans.
There’s the ice cream shop. No children there.
Mall? Hmm, no humans at all.
Is there even a toy store in Salisbury?
Quickly, the mind attempts to calm itself. They must be in the country. Yes, that’s where they must be. But then traveling the winding country road out to Faith, seeing sprawling lawns where certainly I should see kids throwing a ball, or in the woods where they should be building forts, I’ve found myself ticking off the miles without spotting one child on a bike or swinging from a tree branch.
I know there are children because I can see all the schools, but just where do they all go? My neighbor and I concluded that they must be playing video games. That didn’t make us feel any better.
Take the video games away and they will lie around mumbling, moaning … and the incessant sighing! But what brightens the day of every child is always another child, or even better, lots of other children, doing something fun like skateboarding at a local skatepark.
The skateparks that were once the answer for many now lie in ruins, and a trip to the bike track requires an adult to drive kids a great distance. Add to this the financial difficulties of the typical family, and a day at a for-profit park is beyond reach, much less everyday. We all remember the summer days when Mom gave us the boot right after breakfast, called us in for lunch, and then booted us back out again until dinner.
We don’t want our kids playing video games, but then our overprotective culture must face the fact that we’ve deprived them of places for unorganized play in urban settings. Unless a child has neighbors his or her age in their country neighborhood, they are going to feel the call of those video games over outdoor play.
It was an economic wasteland during the ’70s, much like North Carolina’s abandoned mill towns, that inspired, or should I say spawned, what we now call “extreme sports.” For those who’ve never followed the sport, modern skateboarding was born in a one-horse amusement park town at the end of Route 66. When the amusement park closed and the rollercoaster became a looming skeletal reminder of its passing, as it slid, then crashed into the ocean, Santa Monica, Calif., gasped through their worst drought on record.
That’s when the surfers discovered they could ride the now-empty swimming pools in neighboring Beverly Hills on their “concrete surfboards.” And vertical was born.
Craig Stecyk, writing in Skateboarder Magazine back in 1975, chiseled these words into skateboarding legend, “two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential, but it was the minds of 11-year-olds that could see that potential.”
Craig wrote about the Zephyr surf and skateboard team, the most influential skateboard team in history. Together, they sparked the skateboarding revolution. Yet, Southern California has a unique infrastructure: They’ve basically covered the desert with cement. Where rocks and mudslides fall into neighborhoods built right into the base of mountains, they’ve built slanted walls — cement Spanx for their mountain sides. To bring water to the desert they’ve built a cement aquaduct system of slanted walls. Both serve as perfect concrete waves for skateboarders.
Here in North Carolina, we don’t have southern California’s unique problems, so we don’t have the infrastructure that gave birth to modern skateboarding. It has to be built with skateboarders in mind.
To the surprise of the local extreme sports enthusiasts, it’s the churches that have been the most hospitable to the otherwise-excluded pavement artists, building small skateparks on their property, here and there, where space and finances will permit. Unfortunately, there have been too few in far-flung places to allow the sport to flourish locally.
Mike Corley, of Eastern Bikes in Landis, kindly donated his time and money to build a skate/bike park at a nearby YMCA where the staff was to maintain the park with the funds they received from members and taxpayers. But when the economy nosedived, they decided to put their funds into the other sports they offer and sold off the ramps. What’s left still lies in ruins at the side of the fitness center. So maybe going through the pre-existing infrastructure isn’t the answer.
Recently, I was in a bike shop and I mentioned that there was an earlier effort by the people of Salisbury to build a park through the local government. I was interrupted by a loud “Pfffftt!!!!” A disgusted young boy described the oddly shaped, “unplayable” basketball hoops we paid for instead. Hmm … have we tried the guerrilla route yet? If we want this dream for our kids, then we may have to make it happen ourselves.
We are shamed by the cities around us. Raleigh calls itself the “Skate Capital,” Charlotte and Mooresville boast two skateparks. Nothing in Salisbury, Kannapolis, Rockwell or Faith. Clemmons has a BMX track.
Until local communities can brag about their own fun-filled skateparks, we can pry our kids from their video games and head to the highway to the state’s existing skateparks.
Many skateparks double as BMX parks, as well. Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex in Holly Springs is one of the newest and is, so far, the largest skatepark in North Carolina at 37,000 square feet. Atlantic City is working on its new park right now.
The added benefits of a skatepark are the afterschool care, the summer camps, the parties, the lessons, and as you know, those all mean jobs. Nothing, however, beats out the friend potential for the kids and for Mom and Dad.
Grants exist for any city that wants to make this happen. The Tony Hawk Foundation has spent millions building skateparks. SPAUSA.com is the Skate Park Associations Web page where they share information on the details of funding, designing and building a park.
Some companies build poured concrete skateparks and some almost specialize in North Carolina parks. So where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? Whenever it comes to our kids and sports, North Carolina parents have always been extremely supportive. I’m just betting there’s a will. And now that there’s an Olympic BMX team, as well as the X-games, I know there is.
Sharon Deryck lives in Rowan County.
Here are the North Carolina skateparks and BMX tracks, courtesy of Concretedisciples.com and USABMX.com.

n Pops Skatepark, Apex,
n Food Lion Skatepark, Asheville
n Avalon, Avalon
n Carolina Beach Skate Park, Carolina Beach
n Sk8 Cary, Cary
n BAC Skatepark, Castle Hayne
n Grayson Skatepark, Charlotte
n Cherokee Action Sports Park Skatepark, Cherokee
n Hang Loose Skatepark, Cornelius
n Island Revolution Skatepark, Corolla
n Maple Skatepark, CurrituckWheels Skatepark, Durham
n Durham Skatepark, Durham
n Fun Junction, Elizabeth City
n The Mill Skatepark, Fayetteville
n Double Decker Skatepark, Fayetteville
n Side Project Skate Shop/Park, Gastonia
n YDG Skatepark, Graham
n Above Board Skatepark and Shop, Greensborro
n Skatebarn, Hampstead
n University Skatepark, Harrisburg
n City of Hendersonville Skatepark, Hendersonville
n Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex, Holly Springs
n Jacksonville Rec. Skatepark, Jacksonville
n Creation Skatepark, Kernersville
n Soul Ride Skates, Concord
n Mooresville Skatepark, Mooresville
n Capital City BMX, Raleigh
n Hornets Nest BMX, Charlotte
n Weaversville BMX, Weaversville
n Tanglewood BMX, Clemmons
n Gastonia BMX, Gastonia,

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