It's a skater's dream

The only thing standing between local skateboarders and their own skaters’ paradise is about $300,000 cash.

That is the amount the group Bremerton Skaters and Supporters United (BSSU) estimates is needed to create a new skatepark in the Eastpark area of Bremerton.

The current park is too small, unsafe and unskateable, they say.

Mayor Cary Bozeman is aware of their cause and is firmly committed to helping them get the park built.

“I think skateboarding is an important activity for young people,” he said. “We’re going to get this done. I promised them I would lead the charge.”

Bozeman wants the skatepark completed within two years. He also wants it to be something the skateboarders are proud of, not a ragged collection of plywood and concrete like it is now.

He says the money could come from a combination of donations by service groups in town, as well as from the city’s annual budget.

The skateboarding group is also applying for non-profit status, and will become eligible for a $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation, named after the most widely renowned skateboarder in the world.

After the park is completed, maintenance costs will go to the city of Bremerton.

Since March, BSSU has met at the Kitsap Regional Library to research the logistics of the skatepark.

They have spent hours researching skate law in Washington, as well as statistics on accidents and injuries, financial feasibility and design possibilities.

According to chapter 10.12 of the Bremerton Municipal Code, skateboards cannot be ridden in the downtown area. That pushes the youngsters onto side streets, where the gravel is not smooth enough to ride on, or to the dilapidated park next to the new Bremerton Ice Arena.

“The skaters have done their homework,” said Lisa Gordon, a teacher at Bremerton Junior High, who has spent innumerable hours without pay taking the skaters on field trips to other parks and monitoring their research.

Gordon is in her second year of teaching at BJH, and noticed early on that there was quite a buzz about skateboarding at the school.

She used to skateboard herself, and can sympathize with the students’ needs.

“So I listened and watched,” Gordon said. Some of the students who were not successful in their classes were very good at skateboarding, she realized. It was a source of pride for them, as well as exercise. She tries to tie skateboarding into her lessons on occasion to engage the students.

Last March, students and skateboard enthusiasts Westin Williams and Jesse Dixon began working with Gordon to establish a group committed to building a new skateboard park in Bremerton.

The boys started carrying around petitions and gathered about 500 signatures of students and community members supportive of the park.

Currently, about 20 kids work regularly with Gordon to plan out the park.

They have studied different parks in the area, from Kingston to Marysville to Seattle, Sequim and Orcas Island.

“It helped us recognize what we wanted,” she said.

The students have given numerous presentations to service groups in the area, trying to rally support.

In October they attended a Bremerton City Council meeting and spoke about the necessity of the park.

“We view a new skatepark as an important piece of the redevelopment and future of our city,” said Luke Henry, a 15-year-old at Bremerton Junior High.

“Please don’t forget that a vibrant city needs healthy, active citizens.”

Henry and his friends are looking forward to a new surface and some new ledges, stairs and rails to slide and grind, but sometimes it is tough for them to keep their focus when a new park is two years down the road.

“To tell you the truth, I hate it,” said Ian McDowell, one of the most talented skaters of the bunch.

“There’s 37,000 people in this city and it’s so easy to come up with $300,000,” he said. He thinks everyone should contribute something to make the park a reality.

Costs are high on skateparks because most are more than just a concrete slab on the soil.

They have elaborate curves that help skaters generate speed, and smooth lips that allow them to slide. They also require meticulous concrete work to form the right surfaces.

The closest example of a skatepark like the one BSSU wants to build is the one located in Kingston.

The National Sporting Goods Association ranks skateboarding as the fifth most popular sport in the nation with 9.3 million participants. Baseball leads the pack at 33 million.

Recently, skateboarding has caught international attention with the X-Games programs, featuring the best skaters, motorcycle and vertical ramp bikers in the world.

In terms of sports injuries, the Consumer Protection Safety Council counts basketball with the most injuries per 100,000 participants (223.5), whereas skateboarding is down the list at 20.2 per 100,000.

“Skateboarding is an important activity for young people,” Bozeman said.

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