RIVERTON, Wyo. — Shane Kelly, 18, almost did a perfect dolphin flip — a maneuver that requires flipping the nose of a skateboard into the air while it turns 180 degrees — until he landed.
The wheels got caught in a crack in the concrete. The skateboard stopped. Kelly jumped off before he fell.
“Stupid crack,” he said.
Skateboarders, scooter riders and BMXers at City Park know well the disappointment of the perfect execution of a trick, only to fail in the end – thanks to chipped and cracked concrete. In between their encouragements of “That’s a sick whip!” and “He’s got crazy skills!,” they sardonically applaud each other for wiping out.
But in all seriousness, they want a new skate park. Since the city has not yet provided the money for one, they have formed a club, the Central Wyoming Skateboarding Association, and are raising money for it.
With 10,867 residents, Riverton has no laser tag, music venue, arcade or ice rink. Activities for youth are limited to team sports, said Matt Wright, 30, who loves skateboarding and is helping the club.
“If you don’t do team sports and don’t have money to play team sports, there’s not much to do,” Wright said.
Wright said the skate park is a positive place for youth and essential.
Regulars at the existing skate park describe it as a place to have fun, set and achieve goals, and bond with friends. It keeps them away from television, computers and phone screens. It’s more physically active than playing video games.
“It’s to get outside more,” said Daniel Herrera, 9, who has been skateboarding since age 5. “It’s fun to try things I haven’t done.”
Dominick Daniels, 14, has been riding his BMX bike at the park for four years.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I don’t have to rely on teammates.”
The current park is a former city pool, with deteriorating concrete and no drainage. It’s next to a shelter that protects bands during community events. The rest of the time, the shelter is where transients and drunk people loiter and sometimes try to pick fights with the kids.
The wood and metal ramps in the park have screws that sometimes come loose and catch wheels, Wright said.
The city has maintained it, and “we’re grateful for what we have, but compared to what other cities have, the kids are underserved,” Wright said.
Wright estimated as many as 500 people use the Riverton skate park a year, but some parents do not allow their children at the park because of the adults who loiter there.
The city doesn’t have the money to pay for a new skate park, said Steven Weaver, the city administrator.
In fact, the skate club isn’t the only group pushing for spruced up park space. Another group, called Revitalize Riverton, is raising funds to improve the City Park, Weaver said. When the Little League wanted new fields, the city gave it space in the southeast part of town, but the league has to pay for maintenance, Weaver said.
“I think from the (City) Council’s perspective, they don’t feel like it should be the city to pay for the whole thing,” he said about a new skate park. “They feel like it’s a conglomerate (of partners) that should pay for it.”
But the club will earn support from City Hall if it can be successful in raising the bulk of the funds. If it can show a successful fundraising effort, there are grants that the club can apply for, Weaver said.
“I think it’s going to be all doable,” he said.
Members of the skateboarding club hired Joplin, Mo.-based American Ramp Co. to design an all-concrete, 10,000-square-foot park, smaller than the current 30,000-square-foot park, which has a lot of unused space, Wright said.
It will cost about $270,000 to build the “open bowl” concept, which means that in some areas, users enter the park by riding down into a pit.
“A concrete park will last virtually 60 years without maintenance,” Wright said.
The location of the new park is to be determined. While the city would like the park to remain in City Park, the club would like to move to another location.
The kids have been raising money for about three months, and have accumulated $13,000, Wright said.
The goal is to raise about $60,000. They hope the rest comes from grants.
To raise funds, the kids have hosted contests. They are selling granite blocks for a walkway into the planned park. People and businesses can etch their names into the granite.
Wright said that kids are learning leadership skills and responsibility by organizing events, speaking to people about the need for a new park and raising funds. The advantage of not having initial city support is it’s “teaching the kids to not have a sense of entitlement,” he said.
Ultimately, the community will benefit from a new park, Wright said.
A new skate park will show people who are considering moving to Riverton that the town values kids’ activities, Wright said.
Skateboarding is a 50-year-old sport. Parents pass their love of the sport to their children.
People travel to skate parks, said Wright, who said he’s traveled to Casper to skateboard.
“They’ll fill up their gas tanks, get a hotel,” he said.