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SKATEBOARDERS FINDING SUPPORT FOR A NEW PARK
An Orange Park group of volunteers is helping raise funds by throwing a concert.
By DAVID HUNT, The Times-Union
ORANGE PARK - Time and nature have not been so kind to the amateur craftsmanship that built a small park in the side streets into the skateboarding haven that attracts dozens of youths each day.
"It's busted, disgusted, it can't be trusted," said Justin Lewis, 18, getting a laugh out of a group of fellow skaters at the Orange Park Skatepark. "We spend a lot of money repairing ramps. We could get more by spending more money on a ramp that you don't have to put that much work into. ... "
Members of the Orange Park Skateboarding Alliance agree.
The 28-member volunteer group has spent $3,500 so far this year on maintenance, said treasurer Linda Stone. Paying the bills takes fundraising, events like today's all-ages rock concert at Mi Casa Lounge on Park Avenue in Orange Park.
The alliance's next goal is to raise $200,000 through corporate sponsorships to have the park professionally rebuilt. Using more durable materials would stave off the need for constant repairs, Stone said, and would give the park a better flow to allow more skaters to practice their sport.
Those who use the park are excited at the prospect of upgrading equipment, replacing the deteriorated boxes with street-like structures such as stairs and handrails.
Sal Butorac, 14, said it makes more sense to save up than to continue pouring money into maintenance.
"We won't have to spend a thousand dollars on another park just to skate the same thing," he said.
The work, Stone said, is well worth it. Orange Park Skatepark is the only cost-free skateboarding area within a 25-mile radius.
"We need a place for kids," Stone said. "We need to keep them off the streets, out of the parking lots."
Long deemed nuisances and insurance liabilities, skateboarders have been chased out of public areas for years, but the sport has become popular and is demanding acceptance.
Where: Mi Casa Lounge, formerly The Spindrifter, 300 Park Ave., Orange Park
When: 4 p.m. today, doors open at 3:30 p.m.
Cost: $5, with proceeds benefiting Orange Park Skatepark
Headline act: Naked Beggars, featuring Eric Brittingham and Jeff LaBar from the band Cinderella.
More information: (904) 449-5723
A study released in June by the Washington, D.C.-based Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association said 11.4 million people in the United States skateboard. The number surpasses those recorded for the national pastime, baseball, with 10.3 million people, and tackle football, with 5.8 million.
Alliance secretary Anjee Rotella said the group hopes to raise $1,000 at today's show. It is being headlined by the band Naked Beggars, which features Eric Brittingham and Jeff LaBar from the band Cinderella.
"Anything that has to do with kids, that's the kind of thing we like to do," said Diana Martines, singer for the band Token Blonde, which is scheduled to open the show. "I'm a mother of two, so I support anything that helps keep kids busy and not getting into things they shouldn't be doing."