Reid Armstrong: Hideaway Park skatepark belies sterotypes about boarder culture |

Reid Armstrong: Hideaway Park skatepark belies sterotypes about boarder culture

Reid Armstrong
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, CO Colorado

This summer, my 12-year-old stepson had a most remarkable experience at the Hideaway Park skatepark. Here was a kid who dressed like a skater and acted like a skater, but couldn’t really skate.

Early in the summer, when he first arrived from Oceanside, Calif., he started going work with his father in Winter Park. To kill time, he’d ride his bike down to the skatepark to hang out. Before long, he was leaving his bike behind, taking his skateboard instead. By the end of seven weeks, he was dropping into the big bowl off the high edge, and everyone was calling him “Skittles.”

This transformation, and his father’s description of the skatepark culture, fascinated me. I’ve always associated skateparks with vandals, derelicts and hoodlums. I assumed that – not being from here – Skittles would have had a more difficult time assimilating, especially into a skatepark where the competitive spirit can make it difficult to find friends, or even to be allowed the chance to take a turn in the bowl.

But Hideaway skatepark has something special going on, and I got to witness it firsthand at the end of the summer when I went to watch Skittles show off some of his new tricks.

First of all, the older kids were supportive. One teenager coached my stepson through a new trick he had never tried before. And when Skittles pulled it off, the young man cheered for him: “Nice!”

When I started listening, I heard that kind of positive attitude going on all around the park. Kids taking turns, supporting each other, giving tips.

At least twice a day, the younger kids in the group would walk across the street to Powder Tools, a skate shop in Cooper Creek Square. Like an old school surf shop in California, the staff at Powder Tools took these Gromits under their wings, showing them how to tune their boards, giving them access to the tool bench and filling their pockets with stickers.

It made Skittles feel special – pushed him to keep going.

“There are two forces at work,” said Winter Park Town Manger Drew Nelson. “The adults that do hang out over there tend to encourage younger kids to behave properly and respect the park.” There’s actually a loose-knit group of kids and adults who pitch in to help keep the park clean and provide maintenance, Nelson said. Also: “It’s more of a learner’s park. It’s not as challenging as some of the other ones we see. The younger kids are willing to listen and learn.”

“If we didn’t have some of the folks here in town, guys who are business owners who hang out at the skatepark (like Bruce Isakson of Powder Tools, and Ben Schemel and Slade Bridgman of the Rec District), I don’t think we’d have the same outcome,” Nelson said.

For a long time, Winter Park was one of the only mountain communities without a skatepark. Kids skated in the parking garage at Cooper Creek Square.

It was the vision of council member Chris Seemann who said “if we’re going to do this let’s do it right” that helped make the skatepark what it is today, Nelson said. The town spent $300,000 on the first phase of construction, which included two bowls and some street features when it opened in 2007.

Work has just begun on a second phase, funded in large part by a GOCO lottery funds grant with matching funds from the town. The $210,000 expansion will bring more beginner features, a smaller bowl and new street features, curbs and rails to the park.

The expansion will provide a bit more elbow room, more teachable moments and will hopefully help the young (and not-so-young) people at Hideaway skatepark carry on the good vibes.

Props to all you skaters out there who made this summer unforgettable for Skittles.

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