Youth find cross-cultural kinship at Nicholl Park
on September 14, 2010
Over Labor Day weekend, Nicholl Park Skate Plaza is crowded with a diverse group of kids and adults swarming over 10,000 square feet of concrete. Their common bond is skateboarding. In a city struggling to find a solution to youth gang violence, the skate park is a start.
They vary in race, age, and most of all, skill level. First-timers, intermediates, and pros ranging from age 7 to 27 practice their tricks.
Many of the kids say they come to the skate park, at 33rd and MacDonald, to get off the streets and do something they love.
Leke, 15, and one of the older skateboarders at the park says, “Skateboarding really brings people together.”
His friend, Eric, 16, agrees, “It really keeps you out of trouble and when you’re not doing it, you’re thinking about it.”
The two teenage boys carve around the 10,000 square foot concrete park with a chain of friends following on their boards. One at a time, they grind on the curbs, ledges and handrails that replicate urban landscapes.
“We hoped to provide kids with a safe and legal place to go,” says Brad Siedlecki, from Pillar Design Studios, the designer of the skate park. He says many cities erect an 8-foot wall around a square of concrete, charge entrance fees and have strict regulations around using pads and helmets. “I think Richmond did it right by making it free, open, and use at your own risk” says Siedlecki.
San Francisco skateboarder Noah Churnow, 25, came to Richmond because he heard it had a great skate park but was warned he should bring a couple friends since Richmond can be a dangerous place at times. “Today there’s no real problems. Everyone seems really mellow and it’s really nice—so hopefully it’ll stay that way.”
Some of the kids at the park said that they rarely have trouble with crime although occasionally they have older kids steal their boards. “If someone you don’t know, wants to ride your board, don’t let ‘em,” warns Daniel, 12, “they’ll probably just take off with it.” When someone the kids don’t trust is hanging out at the park, “we just sit down on our boards” says Daniel.
Mark Gagan, the Northern District Commander for the police department, states the skate plaza is a safe area for kids to play. He says the police monitor the skate park on foot and also by a nearby surveillance camera.
“I see dozens of kids using the skate plaza every day and it’s very encouraging,” says Commander Gagan. “It’s great to have a destination in Richmond that draws, not only local kids, but pro skaters from all over the Bay Area because it’s so well designed.”
Three middle school boys are playing a game of “horse”. A curly-haired boy flips his board on the top of his foot, and flings it across the sidewalk in frustration when he can’t duplicate his friend’s trick.
“That’s a H,” states his friend.
After a break, the boy jumps back into the rotation with his friends and tries it again.
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