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Skatepark effort deserves support of community
With 27 days of 100 degrees or more this year -- Monday was the ninth in a row -- an indoor, air conditioned skate park might seem like just the ticket.
In the interest of practicality, however, a more modest, achievable plan like the latest one promoted by local skaters is a good idea.
A couple of dozen skateboard enthusiasts found a sympathetic ear in the McCook Economic Development Corp., which facilitated a recent brainstorming session before the group let the City Council in on its plans to build momentum through a fundraising effort and petition drive.
In true 21st century style, the group launched a "Build McCook a Skatepark" Facebook page.
It's not the first skatepark effort. The last one a few years ago fell victim to liability concerns and lagging enthusiasm, not an unusual fate for youth-centered efforts where the most important participants cycle through school and leave home in a few short years.
And, a story about a major judgment against Omaha because of a sledding accident can't help but make city officials nervous -- especially attorneys and insurers.
But we should not let such threats and possibilities paralyze us into inaction.
A McCook EDC pamphlet accompanying petitions in favor of a skatepark makes some good points in favor of such a facility:
* It will provide a safe place to recreate. Most fatal accidents involve a collision with a motor vehicle on streets or sidewalks.
* If designed and built properly, it will require very little maintenance.
* It will support youth who choose an active, healthy lifestyle.
* It will help counteract a national trend toward obesity and inactivity.
* It is a low-cost activity accessible to everyone.
* It will enhance the community's reputation as an inviting place for youth.
* Like other athletic facilities, it will support a vibrant, healthy community.
* Skateboarding has become more mainstream, and is not reflective of a negative lifestyle.
* Skateboarding is safer than many team sports. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, skateboarding has 20 annual injuries per thousand participants, compared to 224 for basketball, 116 for baseball and 62 for soccer. Of the 42 skateboarding deaths in 2006, 40 of them were on the streets, not in a skatepark, and 32 involved a motor vehicle.
* "If a city doesn't have a skatepark, it is a skatepark," the pamphlet continues. "Skateboarding is happening with or without a skatepark. By not supporting our local youth with a skatepark, it doesn't mean they'll quit skating. It just means we are putting them at risk of injury and run-ins with law enforcement."
Perhaps one of the most persuasive arguments has nothing to do with skateboarding at all. By encouraging local youth to get involved with the project, they are learning to engage in the civic process, and what it takes to change their community for the better.