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Skate Park closure will hit the town as a whole

 
Created on 06/10/2020 @ 12:04
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As a petition to object to Welshpool Town Council closing the skate park smashed through 1,000 signatures last night, MyWelshpool heard first-hand about the human impact that it will have by speaking to one user who was there from the start.

Fifteen years ago, Valentine (Val) Kuhl was a 14-year-old constantly drawing the wrath of townspeople for skating on the high street or at the back of the council offices.

“We would often be shouted at for making too much noise, getting in people’s way or because of the damage to curbs, ledges and rails that our axles would cause,” said Val, now 29 and a father himself to Aurora, who was just two when this picture (right) was taken.

“When the park was finished, we finally had a place where we wouldn’t be ridiculed for our behaviour, with purpose-built obstacles made to withstand the impact created from our jumps and grinds. We were out of the public’s way and they were out of ours!”

Val explained that the skate park has been a huge part of his, and many other’s lives. He highlighted the positive affect it has had on mental health for a generation of users that may not have competed in other sports.

“Poor mental health is a prevalent issue among young people at the moment. However, sports like these which help get people outside and give them something to focus on and to strive for can really help cultivate a more positive and healthy mind-set.

“It’s a place which promotes an alternative youth culture, welcoming those who maybe did not excel at the usual team sports in school but still wanted to be outside and get some rigorous exercise among their peers.

“Skating, scooting, roller-blading and BMX are all very creative sports, where as a rider, you can invent your own tricks and basically write your own rule book on how you play. In this way it promotes a strong sense of individuality.

“Also, because the skate park is outside, open all year round and can be used any time of day, without a fee or membership, it allows a user to be very independent.

“It seems absolutely crazy to me that the council would consider closure of such a facility, particularly at a time when we need more places outside to play sports due to indoor activities being higher risk for spreading Covid-19.”

The Town Council decided that the park will close due to repairs being needed that they simply cannot afford, making the facility a health and safety hazard, but Val said that risk is part and parcel of the sport and there are plenty of volunteers that would pitch in to help fix any problems.

“I could see that the skate park needed some fixing, so I had a feeling it may be shut down temporarily and resurfaced at some point. However, I was very shocked to hear it was going to be dismantled and permanently shut. I have already spoken to many people since the news who would happily volunteer their time to help work on the park and fix it.

“The park is a hub for young people to craft their skills, but crucially also a place where those skills can be passed on to younger riders who are willing to learn. An older skater, biker etc. will always look out for kids learning because we have a strong understanding of the dedication and discipline it takes to master such sports.

“Falling off is inevitable at the skate park, but to pick yourself up and try again builds a certain strength of character, which can help in many other aspects of your life.”

The closure was announced during a terrible Tuesday for the town last week when it was also confirmed that the library conversion costs had spiralled by 50%; there was another delay to The Flash pitch reopening; and the Ann Holloway Day Care Centre would also close.

Not to be defeated, a petition was immediately launched to save the skate park and this graffiti message (right) appeared at the popular location.

Val has now urged the decision makers to “consider the huge negative impact this will have on the community” and that “young people with nowhere to hang out will be much more likely to trespass or loiter”.

“They will just ride on the streets instead, and that will be annoying and dangerous for both riders and pedestrians in Welshpool,” he warned.

“I haven’t really ever experienced problems at the skate park. I really do believe that it is a safe space where young people could go to get away from trouble and drugs.

“The thrill of such high octane sports helps release endorphins which produce a natural high. I think young people are less likely to seek out drugs and get involved in that life style if they have seen the benefits of skating, scooting and so on. Without the park, it is much more likely that some young people will be bored, have nowhere to go, and feel that maybe there is nothing to do, so turn to drugs.

“My fondest memories at the park have been witnessing up and coming riders learning a new trick which they may have been working on for weeks, or seeing them finally tackle a ramp which they have initially feared using.

“Generally, having good times out in the sunshine with friends, I think, has always been the best part of having the skate park. I think it’s important to note that you do not have to be on wheels to use the park. It is also a fantastic place if you just want to be a spectator or meet your mates in a friendly environment.”

With skateboarding being added to the Olympic Games programme for Tokyo next summer, Val believes that the sport will undoubtedly enjoy a boom period post 2021 with new riders wanting to give it a try.

“Among the competitors for the Olympics this year would have been the skateboarding prodigy named Sky Brown who would have represented the UK as Britain’s youngest ever summer Olympian,” said Val.

“This extraordinarily talented young girl is currently showing the world that skateboarding is absolutely not just an activity that boys can excel in. I really believe that Sky Brown and the inclusion of skating in the Olympics was about to reignite a new generation’s passion in the sport and for that reason any Town with an existing facility would have it in their best interests to have and maintain a skate park so a new wave of hopefuls can train.”

To sign the petition, visit here

For the original story, visit here

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