Monday, June 9, 2014

Tosa Embracing, Placing Skaters In Safe Space

Hey look quick, its kids being active!
It is all too common for us to bemoan the sedentary lifestyle of modern children and there are many efforts to increase their level of activity. At the same time, we condemn physical activities we once did as youths with no thought of safety. It is understandable that we want to protect our kids and promote safe practices like wearing of helmets. But how do we reconcile our concerns of safety while also promoting physical activity? One of the best ways is to create and maintain safe spaces for them to do the activities. In Wauwatosa they are doing just that with a new skate park being planned in Hart Park. With the assistance of Tosa Skateboarders United, TSU, and the  Jack Doyle Memorial Challenge Grant funds have been raised to build a new skate park that will provide a dedicated, safe place for skaters in the city to, well, skate.

Whether it be dog exercise, bicycling, or yes skateboarding, we all have witnessed people doing things where or how they shouldn't. In my experience, one of the best things a community can do when there are activities done in an undesirable way or location, is to embrace the activity and make an official, dedicated, safe place. Once those locations are created it is much easier to enforce the improper or even illegal activities not at the official venue and at the locations awareness and education of proper participation can be done. The greater Milwaukee community has addressed dogs with off-leash dog parks, bicycling with of-road trails and spaces - even an indoor mountain biking building for cold months - giving those enthusiasts places to go. But as it has been for years, even decades at this point (at least since my high school years), skateboarders are often left out. They are cursed for doing their activities in public spaces and being unsafe without protective gear, but .

In Tosa, the families of skateboarders took it unto themselves, much as the people I worked with on getting dog parks in Milwaukee did, to form a grass roots group and promote the development of a safe space to displace - nay properly place - their activities to a proper location.  TSU formed a registered 501c3 Non-profit organization with the simple mission to build a skateboard park in Wauwatosa’s Hart Park. Per TSU 'Our skateboarding youth need a safe and appropriate place to practice their sport.  There are plenty of baseball fields and basketball courts – why no skate park?  We are going to change that by building a fun, safe, and beautiful place for both kids and adults to enjoy for years to come.' To build the skatepark in Wauwatosa they needed to raise $240,000. In early 2013, the Doyle Family stepped up big and proposed the Jack Doyle Memorial Challenge Grant.  They  pledged $80,000 if the City of Wauwatosa and Tosa Skateboarders United each match that amount.  In June 2013, the City of Wauwatosa agreed to match the Doyle Family’s contribution.  That meant that TSU was only $30,000 away from building the skate park and in October 2013, TSU reached their part of the Challenge Grant.

Wauwatosa NOW reports that planning is underway with the Wauwatosa Common Council approving a $38,603 contract, paid for from the $240,000 in funds raised, with Action Sport Design to draw up plans for the park. TSU says that 'The design of the Wauwatosa Skate Park will focus on two main objectives; creating a safe and fun course for our community skaters and bikers, and crafting a park that will enhance and showcase the natural beauty of Hart Park.' The skatepark will be designed to mimic popular street skating elements found within Wauwatosa, and cater to all skill levels and ages, so that skaters from all backgrounds can enjoy the park fully.

Congratulations to all those involved in getting this off the ground and in planning stage, I can't wait to walk down the hill from my house to see the kids outside, being active and safe at this great project. If you want a taste of what the kids will be able to do a the park, TSU will setup ramps, rails and boxes for you to ride during HartFest on Saturday, June 14th from 5-7pm on 70th Street, just south of State. If you are bringing kids along to try it out, they will need this waiver filled out.