Skateboarders finally get place to call their own

Cockeysville: Parents and skaters are excited about the opening of a skate park, after years of lobbying and planning.

April 23, 2003|By Jarrett Carter | Jarrett Carter,SUN STAFF

Gone are the days of skating in the store parking lots, run-ins with law enforcement officers and disgruntled neighbors.

After years of planning, Cockeysville Skate Park has opened. And parents, residents, and skateboarders and in-line skaters - who now have a place to call their own - couldn't be happier.

"We worked for three years with department representatives, youth from the community, parents, grandparents and activists," said Dotsy Bragel, former chairwoman of the Baltimore County Skate Solutions Committee, an organization founded to bring a skate park to the area. "It took a lot of convincing, but we finally got it done."

The park, which cost $140,000, is on Galloway Avenue, off York Road, in the shadows of a Target store. Built on a parking lot, the park is surrounded by a high, chain-link fence. Inside are numerous ramps, hills, platforms and rails to challenge the most daring skaters.

Bragel, a resident of Stoneleigh, said that she and parents in surrounding communities wanted to find a way for their children to skate, without the danger or disruption that comes from skating in residential neighborhoods or on private parking lots.

"I have a son who loves to skate, and myself and others in the neighborhood wanted to find a way for children to practice a sport that they love," Bragel said.

The committee held meetings with community associations in the Cockeysville area to discuss plans for the park. While the idea met some resistance, the group was undeterred.

"I attended a lot of meetings around the various communities," said Jack Windsor, 77, of Towson, whose grandson regularly visits the park. "The amount of dissidence was regularly very minimal. Those who were opposed to the idea were not nearly as vocal as those who were in favor of it."

The committee also met with county officials, making the case that the park would be an addition to the community, not a detriment.

"We had meetings with [former County Councilman] Wayne Skinner," said Justin Larson, 18, who served as the youth spokesman on the committee. "We also talked to John Weber, [former county director of recreation and parks]. After that, it just seemed like everything took off."

The county committed to building the park in 2001 and construction began the next year.

The facility quickly caught on. The day it opened last month, 167 skaters registered. That number has since climbed to 267. Anyone who skates at the park must register with the parks and recreation department and sign release of liability waivers. Parents must sign for those younger than age 18. There is no admission fee.

"We were definitely surprised," said Eric Debole, 22, an employee at the park. "I didn't think that [there] were that many skaters in the area, personally."

But county officials said they expected the park to be a hit.

"When you have a new recreational site like this, the majority of the neighborhood will be behind it," said Robert J. Barrett, director of recreation and parks. "Immediate members of the community will be drawn to it, because word spreads fast through kids."

The Cockeysville skate park is the first of three such parks to be built in the county. Construction on a park in Dundalk will be finished by the end of this month, and a park in Lansdowne will be done by the end of the summer, said Barrett.

"It's one of the best things around here," said Matt Herbert, 22, who works at the Cockeysville park. "It definitely has done its job of keeping kids out of the street."

Skaters say they look forward to the summer, when the park's hours will be extended to 11:30 a.m. to dusk everyday. It is currently open from 3:30 p.m. to dusk weekdays, and from noon to dusk weekends.

"It's a lot better than skating somewhere else and getting kicked out," said Will Stackus, 14, of Timonium.

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