Skateparks: Let’s have fun

TWENTY years ago, when I was making international documentary films, a high-ranking Commonwealth public servant named Kevin Power came to me with an idea.

“You should make movie on skate-boarding,” he said. “The kids would love it; wouldn’t cost much; you’d make a fortune.”

I scoffed. “It’s a fad,” I said. “It’ll go the same way as hoola hoops and yo-yos. Forget it.”

What a dumbo.

Not him. Me. Other people in Hollywood made the movies. They didn’t cost much and they earned their producers an absolute motzer.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this when I visited the local skate park at Weston recently. It was a Saturday afternoon with a wind chill taking the temperature down to about five degrees, yet there were kids everywhere.

However, there were some big changes from the days of yore.

And I think we’re missing an opportunity not dissimilar to the one that I allowed to pass me by.

First the changes: Skateboards themselves seem to have been largely replaced by scooters and BMX-style bikes. In fact, the skateboarding area is pretty much divided between the two. The little kids zip up and down on their shiny aluminium scooters, while the bigger boys do all sorts of interesting tricks – at terrifying speed – on their bikes.

But there are no girls.

There’s no adult around to make sure they wear helmets or to lend a hand when they fall.

And among the bigger boys, there’s a division between the genuine athletes who are there for the sheer love of the sport, and the loser element for whom it’s a venue to smoke pot (or worse, tobacco) and plan break-ins and other nefarious activities.

The ACT police know this and they find it handy to zero in on the area when they’re looking for a miscreant. So there’s no pressure from them to change.

But it’s terrific exercise and wonderful for balance and body co-ordination. Yet it seems that once the Government erected it, they more or less walked away.

So here’s the opportunity: We should upgrade the facility, put a roof over it, add some spectator seating and, most importantly, engage a youth worker – preferably a man and a woman in shifts – to keep it safe.

Their presence would encourage girls to participate and in no time they could help organise events to involve the parents.

It’s an opportunity too good to miss. What’s more it’s a natural for the new Chief Minister Katy Gallagher. She used to spend her afternoons supervising after-school care… with one of my handsome sons.

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