Letter: Upgraded skate park justified
Improving the skate park at Compo Beach is important for our children and town. It provides a healthy outdoor environment, fostering its own community that embraces unstructured free time and camaraderie across age groups and genders.
My family is heavily invested in soccer, lacrosse and other highly structured activities, and they are wonderful interests that dominate much of our family time. But the skate park provides something entirely different and the kids benefit from constructing their own playtime, navigating their own risk/reward decision-making, and making friends that are often several years younger or older.
Much of this is the result of a phenomenal staff that is unbelievably caring, kind and encouraging of all ages and abilities. The Compo skate park community loves hanging out with these instructors, precisely because they enjoy mentoring children. As a result, the skate park forms a meaningful portion of many children's memories growing up in Westport. As another benefit, the skate park keeps skating off Westport's sidewalks, streets and parking lots.
The skate park should remain at Compo Beach. Its safe, healthy environment is influenced by its inclusion within the broader, family-oriented beach area. It would take nuanced observation to realize that destination skate parks in other communities do not fare as successfully in terms of personal conduct and behavior.
Though underutilized due to its physical deterioration and out-datedness, Westport's skate park is highly regarded for its wholesomeness, and this is fostered by the staff and its placement at Compo Beach. Further, this presents a valuable source of empowerment for our youth. At an appropriate age, my son earned the privilege to walk the short distance to Joeys during summer skate camps, or back and forth from our family set up on the beach on summer weekends. While this location advantages the families of Compo Beach skaters and rollerbladers, it does represent a feature unique to Westport.
So, how should the skate park be improved? Participation suffers because the park is out of date and in poor condition. Neighboring towns have better-maintained parks that enjoy greater popularity, Westport's skate park has fallen behind, and certain elements have become dangerous and require constant repair (documented in this short video: http://ow.ly/CdA2c).
Steps should be taken to modernize the park and improve its appeal, safety and appearance. Modern, poured-cement parks made by professional skate-park builders cost as reasonably as $10 to $15 per square foot, or significantly less than they used to (as documented at http://ow.ly/CeTEo, with other communities' transformations at http://ow.ly/Cf2N0).
Regarding location, either its current site or the alternate site at Compo Beach offered by parks officials during a Sept. 29 town hall meeting -- a portion of the proposed "Central Lawn" that realistically would only be used once each year for overflow parking.
Our town should embrace, not eliminate, safe and empowering recreational choices for its children.