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Skaters set sights on park improvements




Local skateboarders are hoping to land a new trick -- getting the city of Hays to transform the Aubel Bickle Skate Park.

Derek Hadley, manager at White Chocolate skate shop in Hays, said he is part of an outside group called the Western Kansas Skatepark Committee. It wants to update and expand the skate park.

The committee's vision includes replacing many existing features with concrete, turning the adjacent hockey court into a skate plaza and installing a raised bowl pit in a neighboring grassplot.

The skate park has not seen a major change since it was built in the late 1990s after the community helped raise funds.

"This time, we'd kind of like it to be funded by the city, be a public thing for the city, because it just seems a lot of the kids, I think, that are into action sports feel neglected by the community," Hadley said.

The committee would turn to fundraising if the city requires a contribution. A petition posted online by the committee has been signed by 176 people.

"Baseball, soccer, football, basketball and playground facilities are always being modernized and maintained in Hays so kids don't have to play in the streets," the petition states.

"With the lack of size and diversity of the Hays skate park, it is pushing kids to that very place. The possibility of getting hit by a car or harassed is extremely high."

Hadley said the skating community might not be as noticeable as other local sports, but it is just as relevant.

The committee conducted an informal survey and found the average skater spends seven to 28 hours a week skateboarding at the park or around the area.

Making the park more appealing and keeping skaters off the streets is one aim.

"The saying is, if you don't have a proper skate facility in the city, the city becomes the skate park," Hadley said.

Replacing the metal on some of the existing obstacles is also a goal because some of the strips are fraying and bolts can come loose. Concrete is the standard material used because it is more durable and costs less in the long run.

Jeff Boyle, director of parks, said his intent is to consider the plans and request some funding for the project in the city's 2015 budget or look for grants. There is no estimated cost for the plan yet.

"Part of what we do is provide areas for kids to go hang out and enjoy themselves. That's what we do; that's what we're here for," Boyle said. "Not just kids, but adults as well."

Hadley said many adventure athletes are compelled to visit popular skate parks, and an updated park would be a big draw.

"We want to create a destination for every skater that's traveling in this area because when there's a good park somewhere, there's just thousands and thousands of skaters, BMX people and inliners that seek out skate parks," Hadley said.

The petition can be viewed online at www.ipetitions.com.