A world-class skate park possible for SK

Leslie Reynolds-Taylor understands passion. She knows what it’s like to possess a desire so strong it overrides reason.

Leslie Reynolds-Taylor understands passion. She knows what it’s like to possess a desire so strong it overrides reason.

She understands even when that desire bucks tradition and meets the icy cold stare of societal disapproval.

She was all of 5 when she first sat in her father’s small plane. Yet, she knew that she would someday pilot her own. She knew this, when she was the only girl checking out the flight programs and very few women were becoming pilots and even when she was told that she’d be lucky to become an airline stewardess.

She stuck it out, bucked tradition, and took on societal disapproval as a challenge. She’s been flying now for more than 34 years, completely comfortable in a man’s world.

Watching son Zachary balance on a skateboard at the wee age of 3, she saw that same look of determination and stubbornness. She knew that the skateboard would become a part of him, the way flying is part of her.

She knew that in spite of her worries and her cries to be careful, he’d practice and practice — daring twists and leaps — until he was bruised end to end and skilled at it all.

She knew, too, that she’d have to help him. Not on the board, that’s not her passion, but in other ways. Ways that would change her and him, too, and not just because together they’d buck tradition and take on societal disapproval.

They were used to that. Zachary had suffered the embarrassment of being banned from several stores for skateboarding illegally, since there is no legal place in South Kitsap to skate.

No, these two mavericks would have to take on a hard challenge, one that stretched their resources, skills and even confidence.

Instead of staying on the edge of the world they’d have to delve right in and ask the world to change, just a bit, to make room for them. And, they’d have to do it by pulling together all the other mavericks out there who are skateboarding illegally across the community.

As hard as it is to get into the air, the determination that can get you there – piloting a plane or leaping a stairwell – can help you build a brand new, state-of-the-art skate park in South Kitsap.

That determination led them to Peter Whitley, a graphic designer and longtime skater from Tacoma, who wrote a 100-page handbook called the Public Skatepark Development Guide.

It walks skaters (and those who love them) through the process of working with the public, government officials, designers, architects and more. It also addresses how to give those groups insight into an extreme sport that has captured the passion of 13 million (2007 statistic) skateboarders in the United States.

Since 94 percent of the 13 million skaters are under the age of 24, Whitley saw a great need to help community members establish challenging, convenient and legal places to skate.

He was concerned that skateboarding receives more than its fair share of negative, anti-authority stigma and banishment from public places.

He divides the book into five sections — vision, advocacy, fundraising, design and skate park management.

He emphasizes that the process of building a well-planned public skate park can transform teenage skaters, many whom feel marginalized from their communities, into advocates responsible for a major public works project.

“Quite a feat,” he says, “for a 16- or 17-year-old.”

Leslie was so taken with the guide that she followed it to the letter, pulling in dozens of skateboarders to discuss their needs and starting a nonprofit orgaization – the South Kitsap Skate Park Association (SKSPA) — which has met several times and received permission from Kitsap County park officials to plan a park.

In November, SKSPA initiated an interview process to select a designer. Each of the top three recommended designers was given time to address a group of skaters, along with parents and officials from the county parks department.

Of the top three, Grindline from Seattle, Dreamland from Lincoln City, Ore., and Newline Skate Parks, the kids chose Newline, a skate park design firm from Vancouver, B.C., that recently received one of Canada’s top landscape architecture/urban design awards for the “Plaza at the Forks” skate park.

Newline was chosen specifically for its ability to merge the skaters’ perfect vision of a skate park and meld it with its surroundings creating a beautiful, balanced and challenging park.

Tomorrow evening, starting at 5 p.m. at Givens Community Center, Kitsap Room, the firm will be in Port Orchard gathering any and all ideas for the proposed skate park. They’ll meet first with SKSPA members and then the meeting will open to the public at 6:30 where more ideas will be harvested.

Newline will take this information and in little over a month, turn it into a plan that fulfills every skateboarder’s wildest dreams.

The unveiling is planned for Sept. 17 at the South Kitsap Regional Park planning meeting.

A skate park, as perfectly planned and designed as this, will require money. A fundraiser for skaters should be fun — fun for kids and especially for adults.

SKSPA’s first will be.

Hosted by Moondogs, Too, the event will be a big band fundraiser that offers the musical talents of four different bands, two local and two with famous names.

Starting at 3 p.m., the beloved recent South Kitsap graduates making up Super Heroes in Training will play, followed by another kid-friendly band, Snakebite.

At 7 p.m. when youth under 21 must leave the pub, Leon Hendrix — Jimi’s brother — will perform.

At 9:30, the audience will discover if they were born to be wild, when Goldy McJohn and other former members of Steppenwolf play Steppenwolf songs in the style of the originals.

A cover charge of $5 for the night and proceeds from T-shirts sales will go to SKSPA.

OK, there is another event sandwiched right between the Big Band Night on Aug. 30 and the Pirate Ball on Sept. 6 that is equally anticipated.

Well, at least in my house. It’s my 50th birthday party on Sept. 4, to be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at the same venue, Moondogs, Too, as the other two events.

With the help, hopefully, of the Whistlin’ Oysters, we can sing, laugh and welcome in another half century. If you wish, you can donate to SKSPA there, too, or bring a donation to help restock Helpline’s foodbank after its summer depletion.

But neither is required for admittance. Just your friendship.

Come to one, two or all three and you can end the summer on a high note without ever leaping off a stairwell. Although once the park’s built you can do all the leaping, jumping and twisting you wish.

If you want to be an angel donor to the skate park or just want more information check out www.skskatepark.com or reach Leslie at (360) 265-6691 or Mike Vandenbergh at mikevandenbergh@mac.com.

Mary Colborn is a Port Orchard resident.