This article was submitted by the Vero Beach Skate Park Alliance.
Ian Cicco, age 12, was six years old when he first picked-up a skateboard. His world was that of a safe gated-community with new CBS homes neatly piled around several miles of roads and cut-de-sacs of beautifully smooth pavement and curbs.
Penny, Ian’s mother didn’t have to worry about him; he was easy to find; confined within the stucco walls of their suburban Florida community.
He spent hours rolling back and forth and beaming with joy as he would belt out, “MOM! I just ollie’d the curb!”
It didn’t take long for little Ian to outgrow the experiential thrill his neighborhood had to offer.
“One day I came home and he had dug scrap plywood from a construction bin and was building a box, on his own. He had watched a tutorial from the Internet. He was really passionate about finding ways to learn new tricks.”
In 2016 the Olympic Committee added skateboarding to the illustrious ranks of the Olympic sports. Tokyo 2020 will be the first games to host skateboarding in the line-up; street skating to be exact.
Although the course designs are still in development, rumor has it that Tokyo will be showing the world street skating by integrating it into their cityscape, their actual streets.
Topping things off South Florida has a hopeful for competing for a slot in the Olympic team, a team expected to be dominated by Californians. If the boon in snowboarding post Olympics with the help of pro-snowboarder Sean White is any indicator of the effects the games may have with our youth pro street skater Alex Sargente of Lake Worth could be the next Olympian to unknowingly spearhead a movement.
Kids all over south Florida will be getting new boards that year, experienced youth will begin to push themselves, and the number of local competitions will grow, potentially quite a bit.
The Tony Hawk Foundation anticipates huge growth that is unexpected by the general population. We should prepare ourselves for a whole new level of enthusiast. Enthusiasts that will watch Olympians skating and competing on the streets of Tokyo. The key word here is “the streets”.
For Vero Beach, this is a problem, a big one.
It is illegal to skate on the barrier island but that has no effect on the difficulty of clearing kids with skate boards from areas like the Vero Beach Theater, the Art Museum, Hummiston park and all surrounding retailers.
These are prime locations for landing that “new trick”.
Likewise, skating is not allowed in the Vero Beach City limits, posing a problem legally speaking for anyone utilizing a skateboard for transportation. But they are skating anyway. And it is easy to find proof. YouTube is chock full of videos made in the public spaces in our city; even on the roofs of our schools, some involving quick get-a-ways from police officers.
This is disconcerting for moms like Penny Cicco. “Ian is getting older, he is traveling further, at some point he will go from being a cute kid on a skateboard to a target as a potential trouble maker.
He’s a boy, with a passion, and he looks at every surface as potential, it takes an immense amount of self control not to try the ideas that pop into his head. He has already learned that the general rule is not to get caught.”
Not getting caught equates to run, running seems criminal.
JT Malone 16, an Indian River Charter Student, knows this all to well. “No one ever stopped me or questioned me before I was in high school, but now I’ve had to talk to the police a few times.
I would really prefer to take off, because I know I can get away, but that doesn’t help me or the sport and the officers are mostly pretty cool. Sometimes, I’m looking for tricks but I also use my board to get to work.”
Malone works a few hours a week teaching guitar lessons downtown and bussing tables at Waldo’s on the barrier island. His goal is to buy a car, one of the perks of which is being able to get to the skate park in Ft. Pierce on his own.
“No one bothers you there; you can experiment and you can work. I can’t get better if I don’t work at it.”
JT worries that he and many of his friends will age out, before the possibility of becoming an Olympian, for lack of places to practice.
Ian Cicco doesn’t have a car and can’t get to the skate park unless his mother takes him, which is tough when you work full time. But they compete, and it takes travel and dedication.
And it is suspect that he will idolizes Alex Sargente of Lake Worth, who believes he would never have won the Vans Pro Am in street skating; his ticket to the Olympics, without the support of his community.
When Alex comes back from Tokyo, he will be a winner, medaled or not. And the youth will look at him and say, “I can do that!”
And they will, but without a place to go, they will be criminalized.
“We have a deep need for places to play in Vero”, says Vero Beach Skate Park Alliance member Saskia Fuller.
Saskia and her husband Skip have worked to bring awareness to the sport of skating to Vero Beach for several years. “We love our oceans and our quaint charm, but the fact is we are growing, in fact we are beginning to outgrow. Our parks and recreation department has had their budget cut severely and private funding has been used to redevelop public space”.
She is referring to the redevelopment project of Humiston Park by GoPlayVero. “That shows us that the community cares.”
Saksia likes to chidingly remind people that you can’t stop this trend, and if your community does not HAVE a skate park, it BECOMES the skate park.
All too many business owners in this county understand that well. Vero Beach is already a skate park, and one cannot help but wonder will the Tokyo Olympics be the final straw? There seems to be a potential problem on the horizon.
The Vero Beach Skate Park Alliance (VBSPA) needs community support to build the planned 19,000 square foot park on the grounds of the dilapidating and fading Leisure Square facility. Many Vero Beach residents wonder if the annexed space is even relevant any more. Truth be told, its not.
Leisure Square runs in severe deficit every year with a lack of stimulating programs, a shame for a facility within walking distance to Vero Beaches and an amazing rejuvenated downtown arts and dining district. Leisure Square is prime for a facelift, the skatepark plans include much needed revenue production as well as public park space of walking paths, adult playgrounds (one must google that to truly appreciate), and exterior art installations. It’s really going to be an amazing facility, says Fuller.
The VBSPA hopes that fundraising and revenue will roll over to updating the other existing facilities within Leisure Square as well. Can Vero Beach do it?…let’s hope. Before it’s to late.
For more information at Vero Beach Skate Park Alliance, visit verobeachskatepark.org.