2006-11-02 / About Town

Popular Jamestown Skate Park: home of the brave

By Heather M. Lightner

Skateboarders enjoy the popular Jamestown Skate Park during a recent sunny day. Skateboarders enjoy the popular Jamestown Skate Park during a recent sunny day. If you live in Jamestown, chances are you're familiar with it. Even if you're not from Jamestown, you probably know of it. But if you're between the ages of 5 and 22 (or have children in this age group) and live in or around Jamestown, then you most definitely know about it. In fact, you probably know all about the popular hangout behind Jamestown's Lawn Avenue School - the Jamestown Skate Park.

The park is quite popular, drawing in skateboarders not only from Jamestown, Newport, and North Kingstown, but also from other states. "A lot of people from Massachusetts, Newport, New York and Providence come here," says 13-year-old Zach Ross, a seventh grader at the Lawn Avenue School and skateboarder for over six years. "They come from New Hampshire even. Mostly people come from Newport and North Kingstown though - half of the kids here now don't live in Jamestown," Zach explains, looking around the skate park.

According to longtime Jamestown Skate Park skateboarder Alex White, a Jamestowner and a junior at the University of Rhode Island studying economics, the park is busy on weekday afternoons during the school year, when it opens at 2 p.m. White says on any given weekday afternoon you are likely to see 10 or more people skateboarding at the park.

Weekends, on the other hand, are a much slower than weekdays, says White, who has been skateboarding for seven years and has been skateboarding at the park since it opened. "Weekends are mostly dead - weekdays mid to late afternoon are busy," he notes.

Skateboarding at the skate park is a year-round event for those who have a passion for it. Though the cold weather and associated snow obviously reduce the number of skateboarding enthusiasts in the winter, it by no means eliminates them. Die-hard skateboarders are not deterred from skating even during cold winter weather. Says White, "When it's really cold, people are still here."

Summer is peak season for the skateboard park, luring people in from out of state. "It's absolutely packed in the summer," says White.

According to skateboarders at the park, "older people" - defined by skateboarders as people in their twenties and thirties - are a common sight on summer evenings. Arriving between 5 and 6 p.m., these older people skate at the park after work, possibly as a means of unwinding after a busy day of being an adult. "Sunday night older people know it's their night," explains 16-yearold Jamestown resident and North Kingstown High School student Nolan McCaffrey.

The park is by no means just for teenagers and young adults. Younger children also enjoy the park. "You see an age group between 5 and 20 and they all get along great," explains Jamestowner Ken Rudman, who brings his son Ben Rudman, 10, and his eightyear old stepson Teddy Roberts to the skate park regularly.

Rudman says that the older kids watch out for the younger, less experienced skateboarders.

"We try not to be judgmental about the skateboarding reputation," says Rudman. "Kids here are really nice."

Though wearing helmets is not considered cool among the older skateboarders, Rudman does not allow his boys to skate without one.

"They don't touch the board without a helmet on," stresses Rudman. "I can't believe the things these kids do without a helmet on."

Lori Smith, mother of Jordan Smith, a third-grader at Melrose school, says that she also insists that her son wear a helmet if he wants to skateboard at the park.

Though Smith admits she hasn't seen anyone get hurt beyond typical falls, like any parent, she is concerned for her son's safety. "I do (worry) when there are a lot of kids, but the older kids are very respectful of the younger kids - they let them have their turn."

Rudman and his boys visit the skateboard park four times a week and says, like Smith, he has never seen an injury beyond scrapes and broken bones. Though he's witnessed "nothing catastrophic," Rudman feels school administrators turn a blind eye to what is going on behind the school buildings. "I can't believe it that they (administrators) see all these crazy things."

A sign at the park clearly notifies patrons that the "Town of Jamestown and Jamestown School Department are not liable for any accident or injury to persons or property resulting from use of park." However, injuries are par for the course when it comes to skateboarding.

Fifteen-year-old Sam Richter of North Kingstown has been skateboarding for two years now and has sustained his share of scrapes in the course of pursuing his beloved sport. "Scrapes are fine - I don't care I messed my shoulder up yesterday but I'll be okay," says Sam, shrugging his shoulders.

In addition to the commonplace bumps, bruises and scrapes he gets "all the time," Sam has sprained his ankle and broke his elbow two months ago. Sam is back skating, however, despite the fact his cast has only been off for three weeks.

He says his parents are worried about him skateboarding and, oddly enough, confesses he himself worries about the possibility of becoming injured. "Yes (he worries), very much, but I do it at a less extreme angle - I don't 'go the distance.' I take precautions."

"Precautions" in this case mean he is wearing an elbow pad on the previously injured elbow. "My parents are scared, but I'm wearing an elbow pad," explains Sam. "Kids have been skating here for six years without injuries."

Ben Schmidt, 16, of Jamestown has been skateboarding his "whole life" and, like Sam, broke his elbow "a couple of years ago." Ben says he saw someone break a collarbone about two years ago and that an ambulance had to come.

Jamestowner Ethan Flynn, 14, has been skateboarding for about two years. His aunt owned a large skate park called Skater Island in Middletown, which has since closed and turned into a RIPTA station. After spending time at his aunt's skate park, he decided to skate himself.

In his time skateboarding, Ethan has broken his lower arm, foot, ankle, and collarbone. "The collarbone was the most painful injury," says Ethan, as he takes off for yet another run.

Zach Ross has had his share of injuries over the six or seven years he has been skateboarding, too. "I ripped the bottom of my lip open, sprained my ankle, wrist, hurt my knee really bad." Zach says he mostly sees sprained ankles and wrists.

Despite his injuries, Zach says, "My mom doesn't worry." Hmm...

Zach says he's seen friends get hurt while skateboarding at the park. "My friend tore his ACL doing a 'no slide' (a skateboard trick) down the ledge." Zach, however, says he is not very worried about his own safety.

"Am I worried? Not really. Sometimes if I am trying a hard trick."

The potential for injury is not enough to keep skateboarders away from the park. Many of the skaters make their way to the skate park multiple times a week; some go there every day. "I go there every day from the time I get off the school bus until 6:30. "It's really fun."

The lure, says Zach, is the excitement associated with learning new tricks

"I think it's just the challenge," says veteran skateboarder Alex White, as he tries to explain the desire to skateboard. "You can never master it. You can always progress, but you'll never be able to do everything. Skating with people better than you motivates you. It's kind of addicting," he says, smiling. "You learn by watching."

Ben Schmidt echoes White's sentiments. "It's fun learning new tricks." You learn by watching people.

"It's an independent sport," says Nolan McCaffrey. "It's challenging."

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