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Skate Park proponents prepare to ask city's help

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Supporters of a new skatepark project for Storm Lake are more than two-thirds of the way to their goal, collecting signatures on an online petition to take to the city council.

While progress has been slow, and a timeline has yet to be determined, the proponents say they are still determined to "provide a safe and legal place to skateboard."

With the work on the King's Pointe site still in progress, some might have forgotten that a skatepark was initially included in the AWAYSIS developments, but without funding for the skate park, the skateboarding population in Storm Lake feels their needs have not been attended to.

A group of students at Storm Lake High School started the petition.

"We're just thinking about ideas of what to do that will make people see that we really need it," said Gabriel Torres, the student who started the petition. "(The city) wanted to wait until 2009, but why wait for somebody to get hurt?"

One of the biggest speculations is the money for the park. Many parts of Awaysis have been completed, like King's Pointe and the water park, and Storm Lake is still working hard at other aspects like the lighthouse, lake fountain and Great Lawn. It is understandable there are certain parts of the project that take a back seat, but the skate park is generating some voices and initiative behind it. The students have even contemplated the fact of cost.

"We're thinking about having a summer party where local bands from town can come and play," Torres said. "People will be cooking different types of food, like a diversity party. It could be a fundraiser."

While the petition is sitting at 205 signatures with hopes of 300, the word seems to be spreading out of Storm Lake.

"On the petition, there are a lot of out of towners who are interested in it," Torres said. "There are also a lot of adults who are interested in having a skate park here. They like the idea because they have kids that skateboard and they just want to have the best for their kids."

A few teachers have signed their names to the petition as well and have added words of encouragement.

Skaters' options are relatively limited. The closest skate park is in Spencer, and the gas money adds up fast these days for this daily activity.

"Once we have a skate park, people will go," said Alan Vrieze, another student in on the petition. "A lot of kids are getting into skating these days and we don't want to travel to Spencer where the nearest one is."

Storm Lake also sees a lot of skateboarders getting kicked off of public property by police officers, Torres notes. This leaves the only place for skateboarders to turn is to the streets. The petition pushes for safety as an issue.

"All we need is a safe, legal and sufficient place to practice our sport. So many other places in Iowa have skate parks," Torres said. "I'm sure I speak for a lot of skaters in that we need a skate park so the cops can stop being called and we don't disturb property. We want a place where we can practice and learn new things. Storm Lake has a lot to offer already; all sorts of parks. They say the big issue is the liability. Skateboarding is just as dangerous as football and soccer, and I don't understand how they can have so many soccer and football fields and not have this for us."

Students have already approached the city council and found interest. Maybe with some more effort, a full petition and a few fundraisers, Storm Lake could see this project take off, Torres suggests - adding that he knows there is a great deal of work ahead.

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