A skate park where all are welcome

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De Lila Green

Ryder George-Lander (Left), Devon Bennett (Center) and Camden Davis (Right) standing together with their skateboards.

The sun is in his eyes and he is about to finally land the trick that he had been working on for weeks. He is excited to show his friends who are watching with anticipation until they notice a police car pull up to the parking lot where they are skating. The group knows his chance of successfully landing the trick that day is gone as the officer commands them to leave. They call themselves the Private Property Team, a group of teenage boys that skateboard and do tricks together in Kirkwood. Often, they find themselves clashing with the Kirkwood Police Department and the City of Kirkwood. They go out to practice their skateboarding tricks and skills daily but are almost always stopped by the police. This setback led the group to start a petition to build a skatepark in Kirkwood.

The Private Property Team consists of eight high school boys who have been skating for two-to-ten years. KHS sophomores Devon Bennett, Camden Davis and Ryder George-Lander are all a part of this group and want to create a skatepark where all are welcome. Bennett said the group began with George-Lander and another group member, and welcomed more boys with a passion for skating over the summer. “I skate every day if I can,” Davis said. “[Skating] is really fun and it is almost therapeutic. Skating is therapeutic because it puts you in a zone. If you are skating with people you are close with, the bond you [create] with them is unbeatable.”

…the bond you [create] with them is unbeatable.”

— Camden Davis

For these teenagers, skating is not just about learning a skill. To them, it is a time to hang out with friends and enjoy themselves. George-Lander said he loves to skateboard for the social aspect of it, but that they struggle to find a place close to home where they can all practice together.

“We get kicked out of everywhere we go,” said George-Lander. “We aren’t hated in Kirkwood, but a lot of people don’t appreciate our skating. [In the city codes] it says skateboarding is only allowed in areas designated for skateboarding. But the thing is, there are no designated areas. There are [basically] zero places that we are allowed to freely skate at in Kirkwood.”

Ryder George-Lander in mid-air doing a kickflip trick on his skateboard. (De Lila Green)

Davis feels the City of Kirkwood seems to be against the skating group because of how often the police are called on them. His desire to skate conflicts with him not wanting to cause trouble with law enforcement. 

“Every time we go to a spot [to skateboard], the [police] show up and try to kick us out or charge us with something,” Davis said. “If we had a place we could go, then the cops could leave us alone and we wouldn’t be bothering anyone else anymore.”

The group created a petition to gain support from their community, and they are planning on presenting their petition along with their ideas to the City of Kirkwood. All three boys agree that a perfect place to put a skatepark in Kirkwood would be somewhere that is easily accessible and open to the public. In order to do this, they would need to coordinate with many people, including Planning and Development Commissioner, Jonathan Rache.

“It depends on a lot of things like the scale decided or desired to be operated,” Rache said. “Typically in another community [a skatepark] would be located in a park, a community park, city-owned or private, or in conjunction with a private nonprofit like the YMCA.”

The group plans to talk to members of the City Council and other local business owners to help further their plan. The skaters’ ideas include putting the park near downtown Kirkwood in one of the lots that are not always in use. They agree the construction of the skatepark could be relatively simple, with a few concrete obstacles and “a good flow.” Most importantly, the boys agreed that a good skatepark would be one where all people could come and enjoy themselves.

Devon Bennet’s shoe about to step on to the back-end of his skateboard. (De Lila Green)

“I think [a skatepark] would be beneficial because skating is popular now and it will give current skaters a place to go and practice,” said Bennett. “I also think that little kids who are wanting to learn how to skate should be able to have a safe place to go. I think [a park] would bring the kids who skate in Kirkwood together.”

I think [a park] would bring the kids who skate in Kirkwood together.”

— Devon Bennett

The group said they try to skate close to their homes but they are quickly chased away by police because of assumptions that those in the skating community are a bad influence. Davis said if they had a safe place to skate then business owners wouldn’t have the group skating by their storefront.

“Business owners and older people in Kirkwood seem to think that skateboarders are rude and arrogant bums that come and destroy property,” said George-Lander. “Some business owners in Kirkwood don’t like us around because they feel that we give their company a bad reputation. We will get in trouble just for skating.” 

Skating is what brings these boys together – it is their passion. It is an activity that keeps them outside and out of the house. The boys all agree that if they ever need an escape from school or family stress then they can always get their friends together to go skating. 

“Skateboarding is not a crime,” Bennett said, “and we shouldn’t be treated like the enemy.”