Skaters' Place

neighbors

Skateboarder's Talk To Council Carries The Day

April 19, 2009|By Janene Holzberg | Janene Holzberg,Special to The Baltimore Sun

This is Dan Lesko. Who are you?"

That's the voice mail message on the Wilde Lake High School senior's cell phone. However, very few area skateboarders would have to pose that question back to Lesko, because they already know who he is.

"He's the guy who made the whole skate park possible," said Howard High senior Dave Eassa, referring to the Skate Spot, a skateboarding area set to be unveiled April 25 at Centennial Park North. It will be the first of its kind in a county park.

"He was really instrumental in the process," said Raul Delerme, chief of the capital projects and park planning division of the county Recreation And Parks Department.

Lesko, a die-hard skater who keeps his skateboard in the trunk of his car, shrugs off the accolades. Yet he admits the park off Old Annapolis Road will serve as "a landmark for me and my friends."

"Skateboarders often get in trouble for skating," said Lesko, who added that he and a few friends were once banned from using the parking lot at the Dorsey Hall neighborhood pool.

"But just as many kids like to skate as play baseball or basketball and we need a safe place to go," said the 18-year-old, repeating the basic message he delivered before the Howard County Council two years ago.

"It seems to me that I made some compelling arguments," the Dorsey Search resident said of his testimony.

The Skate Spot, a 60-by-95-foot arrangement of ramps, quarter-pipes and rails that was installed last week on an underused basketball court, "will give kids a legitimate place to skate," said Delerme, noting that Lesko worked tirelessly to make it happen.

"It's like the county is finally recognizing that skateboarding is something that a lot of kids are into around here," Eassa said. "That's pretty rad.

"And Dan deserves all the credit for making that happen."

Delerme said the Skate Spot fit in nicely at Centennial North, which is a small community park in a residential area.

And by using the existing pavement as the foundation, the project came in at a lower cost - $127,000, plus a few thousand more for the large crane required to lift concrete pieces into place, he said.

But the influence of Lesko and a group of 15 to 20 other determined skaters who attended multiple county hearings didn't end with the Centennial Park installation, Delerme pointed out.

The youths' commitment brought about even more good news for county skateboarders: A larger skate park is included in plans for the North Laurel Community Center and Park, slated to open in 2011, and a 1- to 2-acre skate plaza is envisioned for Blandair Regional Park in Columbia, Delerme said.

By involving the kids who would be the main users of the facility, the county reaped the benefits, he said.

"Not a lot of us skate," Delerme said with a chuckle. "So we were able to get advice straight from the horses' mouths."

Having a group of five or six youths working with Missouri-based American Ramp Co.'s design team "was a very good thing," he said.

The youngsters came up with features most skaters want, including grind rails, stairs and picnic tables that are intended for anything but dining.

Jeff Marcus was chairman of the Dorsey Search village board when signs banning skateboarding were posted by the Columbia Association at the pool, he said. Now, he's pleased to see the skate park opening.

"The kids made good points. Skateboarding is not illegal, and it's not a bad thing," he said. "But I've seen kids skateboarding in the street in heavy traffic, and that petrifies me. Teens' overconfidence can lead them to dart out into traffic.

"They really needed a place to go and so they started pressuring the county. It's a good, practical lesson in American politics."

Lesko said Skate Spot will be a popular gathering place and will give him something to come back to after he begins college this fall in North Carolina.

The skaters say they are looking forward to next Saturday's event. Eassa, who's been skating for eight years, is a member of that team and will participate in the display on the new equipment.

"They will be showing off what they can do better than anybody else can," Lesko said. "And it's cool that they'll be doing it in the park."

if you go

When: 11 a.m. Saturday,

April 25

Where: Centennial Park North

Address: 9801 Old Annapolis Road, Ellicott City

What: Unveiling of the county's first Skate Spot

Activities: Door prizes, giveaways and a demonstration by Rascals Skate Team

Details: Free, open to the public

Information: 410-313-1671

neighbors

Is there a noteworthy person or event in your neighborhood? Contact Neighbors columnist Janene Holzberg at jholzberg76@msn.com or 410-461-4150.

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