On a pleasant, sunny evening three days ago, a group of seven skateboarders were showing off their skills to each other in Marshall. But they weren't doing it at the Boards & Blades skatepark at Legion Field. No, they were showcasing their skills at Marshall's Downtown Park - a busy Main Street in front of them, and a steep, rocky fall into the Redwood River behind them.
The first thing that comes to mind when one sees this is safety. There were a couple instances where a wayward skateboard came close to being flung out into the street. What then? A car swerves to miss it and hits an oncoming vehicle perhaps?
The park downtown looks to be a skateboarder's dream because it contains a number of small, cement structures that serve as benches that skaters can ride on top of and make jumps from. It's also a skateboarder's paradise because it doesn't cost these kids a dime to ride there and they don't have to wear pads if they choose not to. Enter the skate park. Boards & Blades, which opened in 2003, is a Tier 2 skate park that features heights over 48 inches. It has three skate zones and 10,000 square feet of skate area, a 100-foot berm, five-foot half pipe, a half pyramid with a grind rail, ledge, manual pad, three five-foot bank ramps, and seven ground rails - in short, a local skateboarder's dream.
Skateboarders don't need to use their imagination to turn any public area into a skatepark, whether it's another park, or a parking lot, or true skateboarding nirvana - a freshly tarred road. But parents need to steer their skateboard-loving kids to the skate park and away from moving vehicles. If their kids are that into skateboarding, a monetary investment would be well worth it. Maybe give them a season pass (a little more than 10 bucks a month will get you seven months at the skate park) for Christmas or their birthday?
Or maybe there's a Marshall business or two out there that can front some money to get more kids into the skatepark - kids who might not be able to afford it otherwise. The last thing anyone wants is for a skateboarder to get hit by a car, but it can happen.
"You want them to go (to the skatepark) but you can't make them go," said Doug Goodmund of Marshall Community Services. "I think the skatepark has kept them away from from some churches and schools, and even off of the street. We've had really good attendance this year."
The kids at the Downtown Park on Saturday were just having fun on a nice spring evening. They weren't causing anyone harm, they weren't vandalizing anything (even though those benches were made for sitting on, not vaulting from). And it's good to see them outside as opposed to vegging at a computer or in front of a TV. But it would be even better if these kids practiced their craft at Boards & Blades where they belong and not next to a busy intersection.