Clyde Beal: Local skateboarders offer ideas for skate park
For several years now, the idea of Huntington having a skateboarding park has been rolling in and out of the news. Ideas and opinions have long been expressed from both sides of the sidewalk concerning the safety of skateboarders and pedestrians alike. In the meantime, skateboards continue to jump, flip and fly anywhere a suitable surface can be found.
Even though skateboarding is a great cardiovascular hobby that burns far more fat grams than spray painting railway coal cars and texting at the neighborhood hamburger drive-in, the sport still receives a cold shoulder when it comes to surfing on the majority of public sidewalks. Meanwhile, talk still continues in city government for the long-anticipated skateboarding park for the growing number who love the sport.
Dustin Foose, who is an avid skateboarder in town, was happy to discuss his feelings and experiences with disgruntled business owners who openly support the idea of a skateboard park.
"There are a few business owners who simply tell us to be careful," said 18-year-old Foose. "Those who ask us to leave, there is little else to do but walk away. Sometimes, if we don't clear out fast enough, they often just call the cops on us."
Foose said everyone he has spoken with would use the new skateboard park regularly once it's finished. He did suggest that Huntington Mayor Steve Williams appoint a few council members to make the drive to Rutland, Ohio, and see its skateboard park for some great ideas on how to build one.
Skatopia skateboarding park is located at 34961 Hutton Road in Rutland, Ohio. It includes several ramps, including the Epcot Beam and Lula Bowl as well as beginner, intermediate and advanced jumps along with a museum of skateboarding history. The park has been featured in many magazine articles and attracts professional skateboarders from all over the world. The park sponsors two annual professional events attracting skateboard enthusiasts who stay in area motels and frequent local restaurants.
While Foose's father supports his son's hobby, there is little he can do beyond constructing a few plywood jumps for his son and friends.
"The skateboard park would really be a plus for those who love the sport," said John Foose. "Someone from Huntington really should look at the skateboarding park in Rutland. It's only about 65 miles away. We've made the drive several times. It really is a great park"
Another skateboarder who eagerly awaits the opening ceremony at Huntington's new skateboard park is 19-year-old Shawn Smith. During the day, Smith works with a local tree removal company, but for the last six years he has enjoyed the hobby of skateboarding.
"It's just an awesome thing to think of having a skate park in town," said Smith. "My friends and I would use it with every opportunity we had. For now, it seems almost impossible to be able to skate close to town without being told to pick up our boards and walk."
According to Charles Holley, Huntington's director of development, the skateboard park is in the planning and design stage.
"We are moving forward with this park," said Holley. "Just as soon as we get a design team in town to look over the site, we plan to publically invite area skateboarders to a town hall meeting for their input. As a reminder to those who anticipate using this park, there will be posted safety requirements which must be adhered to. So if you're a skateboarder and haven't developed the habit of using the right safety equipment, it would be a good idea to start now."
Something else discovered during the time spent with this group of young skateboarders: They wear belts on their slacks, attend school, earn decent grades and have plans for life beyond the skateboarding years. Foose, for example, has credits to graduate from high school and is attending Cabell County Technology Center to learn the construction trade. He also works part time as a maintenance repairman at an area apartment complex. Because of his special skateboarding tools, knowledge and equipment, he is considered as the one to come see for skateboard repair.
Another member of this group of teenagers is 17-year-old Jessie Heaberlin, a graduating senior at Spring Valley High School. He has been involved with the hobby for only seven months. He says the hobby is good clean fun that helps him to stay active. He also considers the sport affordable. He paid $54 for his current skateboard.
"I really like the idea of having a skateboarding park in Huntington," said Heaberlin. "There are few places to skate without worry of being told to leave. I really don't like taking my board to town. It's often too much of a hassle."
The interview of these three teenagers took place in a paved alley near the home of Dustin Foose. Homemade ramps and sliding rails are carried from the garage and strategically placed for practice. At the end of each practice session, their equipment is removed from the alley and put back in storage. Watching these kids sliding across their elevated homemade steel reinforced boxes, curved slides and jumps brought back memories of the age-old truism that "necessity is the mother of invention."
Dustin Foose has agreed to offer help to anyone needing skateboard repair, or to just talk to anyone who has an interest in learning more about the sport. If you just wish to skate with them, call Foose at 304-962-5893.
There is something else to consider about skateboarders: The kids of the 1950s who attached small steel wheels from the hardware store to common pieces of construction lumber, were yesterday's original group of skateboarders. They are now among this country's senior business leaders.
Clyde Beal is still waiting to hear from anyone who remembers Huntington when it cost a dime to cross the old 6th Street bridge. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.