Friday, March 19, 2010

To Skate or Not To Skate? (That Is The Question I Have)

As I sit here in my sunroom on a beautiful almost-spring day, I look across the street and see several skateboarders in Vanderveer Playground. My honest first impression is not to be happy about it. Another year, more problems on the way. It is a rite of spring here in my neighborhood.

Having lived across from Vanderveer for thirty-four years, I have seen the good and the bad of the playground. Drug dealers, fights, vulgar language and disrespect of the neighbors to name a few. This is not to say that there have not been positive happenings in the park, its just that the bad times tend to stay with one.

The park itself is owned by the Easton School District who has let it become rundown in recent years. The macadam is long overdue for paving, the fence surrounding the park is in disrepair, the walls are rust-stained and the sidewalks are broken. In my opinion the school district has become the neighborhood slumlord, showing little respect for its neighbors. But that's another story.

Back to the skateboarders and why does their presence so bother me? They are simply trying to find a place to enjoy their passion for skateboarding. Can't hear any bad language from them just yet. They don't seem to be throwing the trash cans and garbage around, which happens on a regular basis. Everything seems good so far. Unfortunately I have no reason to hope for the best, I am simply waiting for things to go bad.

In an effort to get rid of these negative feelings, I went to the Boys and Girls Club to a meeting about skateboarding and the possibility of a new skatepark in Easton. Dean Young, the director of the club, facilitated the meeting with skateboarders, a councilwomen, a Lafayette student, an Easton fireman and several neighborhood activists (you know who you are) in attendance. It was a good informative meeting, full of new ideas and a fresh outlook on an old problem. I plan to go to their next meeting.

After the meeting, as I drove to Allentown, I was thinking that the kids seemed pumped about the idea and were committed to doing everything right to make the skateboard park happen. Good for them! I would like to help them reach their goal, but not in my neighborhood. Not across the street where we, my neighbors and I, will have to see, hear and live it each day. Boy am I self-serving.

Before many of you think I am wrong for stating my opinion, imagine being in my shoes. Years of trouble, trash and disrespect. Problems that are not being addressed by the very people who advocate more recreational activities for our youth. Who is going to clean the place up, fix the code violations and supervise the youth who use the park? History tells me that no one will step to the plate and take responsibility.

I will say this though, I am going to step up to the plate by attending as many meetings as possible to help solve the dilemma. There are some good sites being mentioned other than Vanderveer. I will continue to voice my concerns because out of concerns, problems are solved. You may not agree or even like my opinions, but they are backed by action. If you dislike what I have to say here, show up to the next meeting, get involved and become part of the solution.



noel jones said...

Great post, Tim. I think this is what we should all be doing as we work on both creative visions and creative problem-solving in our community--not being rigid in our positions from the beginning--to be open to what others are saying, and to be willing to work together to make good things happen.

I was really impressed about how these kids had already thought of stashing brooms on site so that clean-up would be easy. They also seemed concerned about cleaning up on their own, because dirt and debris on the surfaces they're using are not good for smooth rides--so they have activated self-interest with regard to clean-up.

I also noticed that one kid's concern was security, "so that the other kids won't run us out," so I got the impression that these kids are concerned about bad, disrespectful kids ruining it for them. I was impressed that a B&G Club volunteer who belongs to a motorcycle club offered that his group could provide some security for free by having members do regular ride-bys, checking in on the kids, making sure that they weren't being bullied and calling police if they saw any suspicious activity.

The suggestion of Lower Hackett Park was tossed around as an alternative to Vanderveer, which wouldn't disturb any residents and the main concerns were a bus, and security. As for buses, the B&G Club has their own vans, but the kids could also look into the possibility of a Lanta Route adding a bus stop.

One kid suggested that they be allowed to build their own wooden ramps as part of the Bushkill Creek trail renovations--these kids are not necessarily pushing for government handouts or a big concrete project--they are happy to take on the challenge of a "green" project, and build as much of it as possible themselves. I really like this idea, because it's in the city, not near any homes, and would encourage use of the trails, which are good for both skateboarders and kids on bikes.

It's exciting to see so much agency and industriousness in these kids--and that they are employing political will. If they are our future, then Easton's reputation for an apathetic population will slowly become a thing of the past.

I am planning on being at the next meeting too, so I'll see you there!

AprilDiana said...

Noel, thank you for highlighting the positives of the Skate Park meeting. I think Tim has very valid concerns, that should be considered along side a collection of comments from engaged and self-motivated kids.

I think it is very possible that groups could be brought in to help the skaters build the ramps along Bushkill! I will try to explore some connections I have on that issue and send them on the the B&G Club, if they pan out.

Anonymous said...

What about the parents of the kids that want a skate park? Where are they? Are they going to volunteer to be present and protect the kids? Why is there a demand that the city should do it? How can taxes stay down if expenses go up?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the kids could help get our recycling going so that our city makes $ from it - then be matched with $ for park programs.

g_whiz said...

Outstanding post,

I admire and appreciate your candor here. On a level I understand the ipulse or inclination to be cynical about change. To assume that the way things were in our past experiences are the way they always will be, but I find myself thinking that this assumption is particularly unfair to the youths that seem so invested in this process. It does them a disservice to say that due to bad expereinces previously, we don't want to honor their interest in civic involvement, or give them the chance to try to honor the commitments involved therein. I think there's a legitimate need here, and see little wrong with allowing this to move forward on a provisionary basis. Fool me once, sure, but these aren't the kids in question. Not allowing them the opportunity because of the sins of another seems somehow more troubling than any real or percieved damage they could do.