More than 10 years ago, a group of skate board enthusiasts and their supporters, raised enough awareness and money to have a skate park built.
Fast-forward. Today, the skate park needs some updating, some paint and possibly a new location. And then, there is the long-board trend. It all adds up to more youth skateboarding on the street and the sidewalk, more interactions between police and skateboarders and complaints about youth needing places to ride.
"We interact with skateboarders on almost a nightly basis now that the weather is warm," said Perry Police Officer Rick Kuhn. He recently took possession of skateboards belonging to several Perry youth for five days, after the youth had been warned about six times, including one written warning, about obeying things like stop and yield signs.
"These kids are allowed to ride their skateboards and longboards on the street, but they have to obey the same rules of the road that anyone driving on the street obeys," Kuhn said. It is not unusual for him to see groups of people riding long boards to race across busy intersections in front of cars, speed through stop signs and ride on the downtown sidewalks.
Kuhn said parents get upset when their kids get longboards and skateboards taken away. The alternative would be to fine the youth for violations, but the city has found that to be ineffective with the youth. The first time boards are taken away it is for 5 days, and the second time for 10 days.
"It gives them time to think about not having their board and why they lost it," Kuhn said.
Kuhn also noted that young people in Perry should be aware of what the skateboard rules are because Perry’s Student Resource Officer Pat Jans talks with students about the ordinances, what they can and cannot do.
People are seeing more youth riding skateboards because of the long-boards that have become a trend in the last couple of years.
Perry teenagers Conner Embreay and Brendan Smith, both 14, ride long-boards and regular skateboards, as they were on a recent warm evening. Neither rider has had his skateboard taken away by the police, but they have friends who have had that happen.
Brendan switched to a longboard about six months ago, because "everyone had one," he said. Conner called the longboard a form of transportation, but said people can also do tricks on the longboards like "flips and stuff."
A couple of their favorite haunts are Park Street and Iowa Street. "You can get going really fast down Iowa street and around into the hospital parking lot," Brendan said. "It’s an adrenaline rush. You get to going 20-25 miles an hour."
They said they look for parking lots and smooth streets, and although they sometimes ride on the sidewalk if the street is extremely wet, they don’t like sidewalk riding because it is bumpy.
The teenagers said they ride all over Perry, but they do not use the skate park at Pattee Park in Perry. "It’s old and the boards are too long to do anything on it," Conner said. "Besides, there’s this one place you can get your foot stuck."
They have heard that there may be a new skate park created near Caboose Park and that is something they would like to see happen, they said.
Greg Nath, Parks and Recreation Director, said there has been some discussion about moving the skate park from where it now sits in what used to be a tennis court in Pattee Park. He had an expert examine the skate park and was told it just needs some updating and is still a safe piece of equipment. He was also told it could be moved and modified to handle the longer boards.
"I just don’t know at this point when something like that might be done. Moving the skate park is in the five-year plan, but we have no money to do that right now," Nath said. If or when the skate park is moved, the tennis courts would be refurbished and a basketball hoop would be put up about where the Skate Park is located.
He would like to move the skateboard equipment either to another place in Pattee Park, or to the Caboose Park area, and the city is looking at other possible areas as well. Another issue that has been raised, is the possibility of having some space at the McCreary Community Building to safely park skateboards. Nath said they have looked into skate board rocks or locks, but they are costly and he is hesitant to spend money skate board parking equipment if longboards end up being a passing fade.
"One problem we have at the Rec Center is that the kids carry their longboards with them everywhere, even when they come into the building," he said. "We don’t have a good place to put them."
The staff runs into other problems, such as youth trying to ride their skateboards on the gymnasium floor. Recently a group of youth were kicked out of the McCreary Building for riding skateboards on the gym. One young man was kicked out for a week and the rest for four or five days, Nath said.
While long-board riders seem to fall mostly into the middle-school age, Nath has seen youth riding the long boards from as young as 6 years old up through high school. "For many of these youth, the long-boards have replaced bicycles," he said.