Kickflipping the odds

KAPA‘A — Kapa‘a Skate Park officially opened 12 years ago, and has seen a few generations of young rippers go through its oddly paved surface.

But today the only county skateboard park on Kaua‘i is in need of repairs, according to those who burn their wheels there on a regular basis.

“It’s hammered. It needs some love really bad,” said Mark Cooper, founder and president of Kaua‘i Skate ‘Ohana, a nonprofit group formed to promote building quality skate parks on Kaua‘i.

“It’s been cracking, but I’ve noticed that since after the storm, that it’s worse,” he said, referring to heavy rains that hit the island earlier this month.

Kapa‘a Skate Park was built over an existing asphalt-paved court surface, according to county officials.

“The area was fenced off in April 1999, and the concrete ramps were constructed in October 1999,” Kaua‘i County Parks and Recreation Director Lenny Rapozo said.

The materials were provided by the county, and all labor was provided by a volunteer group led by Dustin McDonald and Bruce Savage.

Cooper said Kaua‘i Skate ‘Ohana is in talks with the county to help build more skate parks on Kaua‘i.

But the condition of Kapa‘a Skate Park is an issue for the nonprofit, too.

Cooper said Kaua‘i Skate ‘Ohana is willing to rally community support and volunteer work to fix the park if the county gives them permission.

“There are some spots there that are starting to become dangerous, where a wheel will hang up, you can fall down,” he said.

Rapozo said county records do not indicate any repairs have been done on the concrete ramps or paved court since construction.

Parks and Recreation will follow up on a recent park inspection and research the most cost-effective means to patch the cracks to prevent any hazards from developing, he said.

“The cracks are minor and are due to normal expansion/contraction of the paved surface,” Rapozo said.

“They were not caused by swelling or settlement of the underlying grade, and do not appear to present a hazard.”

‘Booby traps’

Cooper said that besides the cracks, the county’s maintenance adds more hazards to the park.

“When the county comes in and does their maintenance for the grass and stuff, they make it extremely dangerous, because they weed whack rocks right into the center of the skate park, and it’s booby traps,”  Cooper said.

Maintenance workers should sweep “rather than weed whack rocks into the park,” he said.

Rapozo said the area is cleaned periodically.

He said the work primarily involves cutting the grass in the surrounding area within the fencing, and also picking up trash and litter from the park.

Besides weed whacking, county workers use a lawnmower and herbicides to maintain the grass.

It’s pretty much illegal to skateboard anywhere else, Cooper said.

One of the few other places where it is OK to skateboard is the multi-use path.

“There is a law on the books saying it’s illegal to skateboard down the street, so there really is no other place,” he said.

‘Super stoked’

Kapa‘a Skate Park is too small for the amount of people who frequent it on a daily basis, according to Cooper.

“If you go down there any day in the afternoon after school is out when it’s sunny, the place is usually packed,” he said.

But there is no place for “super-little kids” to play there, he said.

The new parks around Kaua‘i envisioned by Kaua‘i Skate ‘Ohana would include a playground area attached to them for children who are “a little too little” to skate, so their families could bring them along and keep them in a safe place, he said.

Despite the crowds and the cracks, when the wheels hit the park all the problems seem to go away, Cooper said.

“We are desperately in need of a bigger, better park, but at the same time these kids are super stoked they at least have a place to skate,” Cooper said.

“We have a whole group of kids from the Southside or Westside who take the bus and drive all the way to Kapa‘a to come skate.”

‘Character building’

“It’s super encouraging,” he said.

“We all cheer each other on. We teach each other tricks. It’s character building down there,” Cooper said.

Cooper said children who skate regularly there know and support each other, and there are no “I’m better than you” attitudes.

“There’s something to be said for going down there and trying a trick and landing a trick,” Cooper said. “You should see the excitement. It gives the kids a sense of accomplishment.”

Kaua‘i Skate ‘Ohana is currently working on a project in Kilauea’s Anaina How complex on the North Shore.

 The property owners are willing to build a skate park there and contacted the nonprofit for help, Cooper said.

His group recently organized a fundraiser there and brought a skateboarding ramp for the event.

Rapozo said Parks and Recreation is currently working with communities in Lihu‘e and Hanapepe for possible new skateboard parks in those areas.

“The partnerships will include funding from the county and private sources, and it is our intent to have it community-built with Kaua‘i Skate ‘Ohana taking the lead,” he said.

Cooper said Kaua‘i Skate ‘Ohana wants to be able to provide free camps and equipment to children who cannot afford it.

“It’s kind of a mentoring program through skateboarding,” he said.

Visit www.kauaiskateohana.org for more information.

 

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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