[Nameplate] Partly Cloudy ~ 90°F  
Feels like: 96°F
Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

New Madrid works to get skatepark

Monday, June 12, 2006

Jake Kimball, 14, performs a maneuver on his skateboard.
NEW MADRID - Jake Kimball glides across the unused tennis court on his skateboard. No bumps, no jumps, no curves, just flat.

But all that could soon change.

Kimball, his parents and his friends envision the tennis court becoming a place for skateboard enthusiasts to practice their skills. A skatepark complete with halfpipe, quarterpipe, rails, banks and a grind box.

For the past year and half that he has been skateboarding, 14-year-old Kimball said he and his friends had to make do with skateboarding in driveways with homemade equipment or on weekends loading into his mother's van for trips to a skatepark in Jackson, St. Louis or as far away as Arkansas

Early this spring the teens along with their parents approached the New Madrid City Council about the possibility of a local place to skateboard. This month, presented with a design plan and a proposal written by community members and the New Madrid County Family Resource Center, the council agreed to set aside an unused tennis court at the Mill Street Park for a skatepark.

John Gilbert, New Madrid city administrator, said the council was impressed with the group's planning and presentation.

"They came back with some architectural drawings and methods for fund-

raising," he said. "Skateboarding is a very popular sport among young kids. ... New Madrid needs to have some facilities to give young people something to do while they are out of school and that is what they and the city are working toward."

Setting aside an area for skateboarders or those who would use it with in-line skates or BMX bicycles should be a part of the park contend the backers. After all, there are already baseball diamonds and tennis and basketball courts for other sports enthusiasts.

"This is a good sport and a lot of people are into it," said Kimball. He explained not only does it challenge him physically but it is fun and even can calm him down on a bad day.

As for his mother, she sees it as an opportunity to drive a lot less. Also, she added, it will be a place where her son and his friends can take part in their sport close to home.

"These kids - they are all really good kids - they deserve this place," Debbie Kimball said. "And this is a sport. One of the Olympic snowboarders started out on a skateboard. How do you know we don't have a future Olympic champion here?"

The youngsters began their own fund-raising. They have conducted a car wash and sought donations.

It was their donation cans at several businesses that caught the interest of Tonya Carruth, executive director at the New Madrid County Resource Center. The staff contacted Mrs. Kimball offering their assistance. One of the first steps was bringing the group under a non-profit status for receiving donations and applying for grants.

Carruth admitted while she is familiar with grant writing and committee organization, the skate park presented her with a dilemma.

"Just getting the correct information and being knowledgeable was a challenge. There is a whole lot more to it than getting on a skateboard," she said.

As she learned more about quarter pipes, ramps and grind equipment, Carruth began compiling information about skateboarding and skateparks.

The presentation to the council included a design by TrueRide Co. of Paragould, Ark. The park would begin with a 100 by 55-foot flat-pad base surrounded by a fence; the company would build the various equipment and install it.

Also the presentation noted skateboarding is the sixth largest sport in the United States with one in 10 teenagers owning a skateboard. Skateboarders, who would be required to wear helmets and pads in the skatepark, are less likely to be injured than youngsters playing football, basketball, baseball or even volleyball, according to the United States Consumer Safety Commission. But even with the council's approval and a place to build, it isn't smooth skating. There still is the fund raising. Carruth estimates the park's equipment will cost $35,000.

"The equipment is very expensive because it is made out of heavy, strong material. They do bring it in and install it and that includes installation and freight," she said.

While small fund-raisers and donations have kicked off the effort, Carruth said a bigger event is being planned. Also a commitment was received from the Tony Hawk Foundation and others to match funds.

A committee is being formed, which will include at least two young people, the mayor, a police officer, park board member and other citizens, to oversee the funds and the construction. Carruth said she would like other citizens to become involved.

"Skateboarding and bicycling are very popular with the kids. They want to do their sport but it isn't allowed on the street so this will give the kids an area to do what they want to do, to pursue their goals," she said. "This will keep the kids off the street and provide something positive to do in a rural area where not a lot is going on."

Donations to the skatepark can be sent to: New Madrid City Skatepark Fund, in care of the New Madrid Resource Center, 420 Virginia Ave., New Madrid, MO 63869.