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Teens to Bristol: build a skatepark

BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Ernie Delvalle skateboards or bikes “almost every day.” But would he — and his extreme sports-loving friends — use a new municipal skate park if City Hall moves forward with tentative plans to construct one?
“Depends how it is. If it’s small, it isn’t worth enough,” said Delvalle, a 14-year-old, home-tutored Bristol eighth grader. But if Bristol built a good park, he said, he would go to it “a couple times a week.”
Local skaters and bikers said they hope the city builds a large park soon and charges little or nothing to use it. And forget city plans to stick it in a park somewhere. The skaters said the placement of choice is obvious.
“They should have it right by ESPN so that if they have a competition they can televise it,” said Josh Wickstrom, a Chippens Hill Middle School eighth grader.
Andrew Signore, a Chippens Hill seventh grader, said he’d enjoy a good park. “I’d go to it every day,” he said.
Philip Cormier, a 14-year-old and a freshman at Bristol Central High School, said he’s got an even better idea.
The city could erect the park “right in my back yard.”
And, Cormier added, “I think it should be free.”
While they wait to see if City Hall ever gets around to building a municipal skate park, local skaters said they head for hot spots such as the Barnes Group parking lot downtown, CT Bike on South Street, the lot near Bristol Eastern High School’s baseball field as well as skate parks in neighboring towns.
Wickstrom, who’s been skateboarding for nearly two years, said he will skateboard anywhere he doesn’t get kicked out. Barnes Group’s vigilant janitorial staff has tried to oust him and his friends from its property, he said, but he still goes there “because it’s all waxed up.”
Since certain tricks require waxed curbs to perform, using a curb that some other skater has already waxed is a plus, several skaters said in a recent interview with The Tattoo.
Daylene Pitch, a 13-year-old Chippens Hill seventh grader who has Rollerbladed since she was 10, said she heads for Barnes Group because it’s close to home.
Signore also likes to skate at Barnes Group. He said, “I like the funky sound my board makes when I go over bricks” there.
Cormier, who also likes Barnes Group, isn’t deterred by much when it comes to skateboarding.
“I just don’t skate in the rain,” Cormier said.
Most of these skateboarders are used to getting run off private property by the police, who normally just warn them to stop trespassing, they said.
Delvalle, who said he skateboards in Barnes Group’s lot “because it’s fun,” said he was once arrested for vandalism while skateboarding at a middle school in Southington.
Patrick Lafferty, a sophomore at Kaynor Tech, said he bikes daily and skateboards once in a while. Although he lives in Waterbury, Lafferty said he comes to Bristol almost every week.
Lafferty said he sometimes goes to CT Bike, which costs $10, but usually skates on the streets.
To Wickstrom, one shortcoming of CT Bike — a privately run indoor skate park and sport shop in Bristol — is its use of “cheap” materials.
Signore said a city skate park should be outdoors but have a roof. He said it ought to have a street course, a bowl, and a vert course — and made from cement or steel.
“Steel would be awesome,” Signore said.
The kids who will use the park should design it, he said.
If Bristol has any trouble coming up with a design, Wickstrom said, he has some ideas.
“They should have a box, in like City Hall, where you can drop off a design and if they like it they use it,” Wickstrom said.
Pitch said there should be a limit on number of people allowed into the city’s skate park because if it got too crowded, people would run into each other.
If crowd control were left to him, Wickstrom said, he would have different days for different sports.
“Skaters and bladers one day and bikers another,” said Wickstrom.
But Delvalle said there should be no restriction on how many people can use the park at a time. “There shouldn’t be a limit on skating. If you want to skate you can, if there are too many people you go home,” he said.
Signore said there must be an age limit so little children won’t be hurt.
Wickstrom said he would also recommend that people using the park should have a minimum age of nine, but otherwise it ought to be open to “anyone who skates.”
Pitch said entrance to the park should cost about $5.
Signore, too, said a $5 fee would be fair and could help pay for extensions to the park.
If a skate park is built in Bristol, Wickstrom said, the admission charge should be reduced for residents.
“If it’s better than CT Bike, I’d pay $10,” Wickstrom said, adding that he would go to the park “a couple times a week, if it were decent.”
Signore said a restaurant should be built near the park so people can get food. Signore said Bristol would have to get money to make a quality skate park, but it would be worth it. He said the community could have an annual competition with professional extreme athletes like the ones coming to town for the X Trials.
While the park would clearly cater to teens who are most apt to want to strut their stuff on boards, bikes and skates, local extreme sports fans said that there are more of them than people think.
To Cormier, there is no age at which to stop skating.
“My friend, he’s 37, he still skates,” Cormier said.

Sisters Sarah and Katie Jordan are each Reporters for Youth Journalism International.

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