Q) Hey Larry, let’s start with a brief introduction. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re trying to do for the community of Casselberry, Florida?
A) I’m just an average, everyday guy that has been given one of life’s greatest rewards, being a father. I grew up in rural East Tennessee and it was there on a neighbor’s farm where I learned a lot about how hard work and dedication is rewarded. As a father, I am dedicated to doing whats best for my son and the community he calls home. When he asked for a skateboard two years ago, I had no idea it would lead to where we are today, asking our local elected officials to dedicate space and resources towards constructing a skatepark in the community. Despite having been involved in soccer, he gravitated more towards skateboarding over time. I think a lot of the reasons why were due to being able to choose when and where he wanted to participate, rather than having a schedule he had to keep with practices and games. At the end of the day, I wanted to make sure he was outside, engaged in an active lifestyle and skateboarding was delivering that and more. As he became more invested in skating we began spending a lot of time at skateparks. Unfortunately, they are not where we live and call home. To get to a quality, concrete skatepark we were forced to travel to Orlando, Oviedo, New Smyrna Beach, Cocoa Beach and beyond. Staring through the windshield, fighting your way through traffic gives you plenty of time to think. The thought that kept creeping into my mind was; why don’t we have a skatepark in Casselberry? That recurring thought lead me to begin investigating how to make it happen.
A) I’m pretty sure if you mentioned my name and mastermind to any of my friends, you would get a chuckle or two. My initial approach to our City Commissioners regarding the idea of a Casselberry Skatepark was a simple email that detailed the lack of a facility for skateboarding in the city as well as pointing out that all of our city parks actually have signs announcing the prohibition of skateboards being used in the parks. I asked what we could do as a community to change that and included a recent feasibility study from Ocala, FL as an example that provided factual information regarding the issue, participation rates and how they were planning to address the obvious void in their recreational offerings to correct it. I received only one response from a Commissioner. In it she invited me to call her to discuss the issue further. It wasn’t the most productive call at first, but over the course of it, I was able to listen to her fears and offer answers that helped to somewhat dispel her misconceptions about skateboarding and skateparks in general. We ended the conversation with her encouraging me to take the next step and come talk to the City Commission during public comments at the next meeting. That’s exactly what I did. In the three minutes I was given, I laid out the current lack of skate friendly recreation space in our community and asked what could be done to change it. I acknowledged the great job our city has done with recreation over the years and simply pointed out that as times have changed and skateboarding’s popularity has grown, the city should endeavor to meet the community’s changing needs. In response to my comments, the Mayor and a Commissioner spoke favorably in support of building a skatepark, so long as there was community support. SKATE 32707 was born at that moment as a way to begin advocating for and demonstrating support within the Casselberry community and beyond.
Q) You mentioned there’s no immediate skatepark in the community of Casselberry, how does this affect the local skaters/bmxers ability to progress in their chosen sport? Would you say having to travel outside the community, almost an hour or more at times, to skate a well designed and built park puts these young skaters/bmxers at a learning disadvantage compared to skaters/bmxers in other communities that have a free well built and designed skate park?
A) I’ve had a front row seat for the past two years watching my own son as he’s progressed from a shaky kneed kid wobbling along, arms spread trying to get his balance and tackle his first transition at a skatepark to more recently seeing him display drive and determination to tackle dropping into a bowl, carving it and pulling off a trick that he’s been working to land for hours. Watching his progression, compared to other kids of his age that live near a skatepark has been a clear contrast. He’s being left behind. Sadly, its not because of effort, its the amount of time he gets to spend doing what he loves. Driving in the late afternoon in Orlando isn’t convenient, everyone knows that all too well, so going across town daily to get to a skatepark isn’t a reality. As a result, he gets to skate a park a lot less and it shows. Further, he has friends at school who have skateboards and they’re even further limited to their driveways; they’re not even able to go to the neighborhood park in Casselberry where its outright prohibited. My son and every kid in our community deserve better. They’re a product of their environment and their generation skates. The mission of SKATE 32707 is to shine a light on those facts and get our community to grow in a positive way to be inclusive of our youth and provide them an appropriate recreational space; the community skatepark.
Q) Would you say that this is fair? I mean there are baseball fields, basketball courts, and football fields all over Casselberry but no skatepark? We live in a country that preaches freedom, justice and equality for all but yet skaters and bmxers seem to fall through the cracks?? How do we fix this problem?
A) Casselberry points out on the city’s website that there are 17 parks across the city offering a full range of recreational opportunities for an active lifestyle. You’re absolutely right, they’ve got all of the so called traditional sports covered as well as offering some really progressive things like canoe and kayak rentals for a fantastic paddling trail through several of our local lakes. I love what our city has done in the past, its just time to re-calibrate their vision for the future. Skateboarding is the second fastest growing sport in the United States and while plenty of other communities have recognized it, we’re still behind the curve here in Casselberry. More so than falling through the cracks, skateboarding has apparently been black listed in our community based on what I see on signs at all of our parks. That has to change. The only way to fix it is to tackle the issue head on at City Hall. Everyone there, from the elected officials to the staff, works for our community; we have to do a better job letting them know what is needed and to be unyielding in getting it delivered.
Q) So let me get this straight, the city of Casselberry has 17 parks across the city for traditional sports and even canoeing/ kayaking but doesn’t seem to see the need to build a public skate/bmx facility? But yet skateboarding is black listed and banned from all parks and most areas in the city?
A) The City of Casselberry has an extensive number of parks of all shapes and sizes for many different user groups, even dogs. Despite greater participation rates than Little League baseball, they haven’t seen skateboarding & bmx as a recreational priority historically. The focus over the past few years has been developing what they call passive use parks and bike/walking paths. Even in light of some desperate kids who built extensive bmx ramps on private property a few years ago, they saw it as a nuisance and spent thousands of dollars to shut it down, rather than recognize it was a large user group that has no home in the city’s parks. It’s really frustrating to know that plenty of other cities have recognized the growth and popularity of skateboarding and leapt at the chance to include a skatepark for their youth, only to have Casselberry flinch at the idea and make every effort to stall and delay even having a public conversation about one; including using a non-existent Parks Master Plan as an excuse for why it’s not possible. It’s simply disingenuous when we’ve watched the City Commission make an unexpected expenditure of over $200K to purchase land to expand a park where skateboarding and bikes are prohibited, this year alone. The process has lost its way, with meetings held at times inconvenient to work schedules and elected officials who would rather lecture the citizens they are supposed to represent on how government works, rather than initiating an open and transparent discussion where the issue can be studied. In total, I’ve been allowed to speak 6 minutes in the past two months in an effort to have Casselberry study a skatepark, an idea which is well supported by a growing number of city residents who agree, the kids need to be off the streets and have a park where they’re welcome. Every day that passes without that dialog beginning, is another day our kids are denied equal access to their city’s parks.
Q) You’re 100% right skateboarding is only growing and we need more skate friendly areas to accommodate this growth. I’ve been skateboarding for 19 years and in my home town we didn’t have a public skatepark either. This forced us to skate the streets or build our own obstacles, which usually led to us getting heckled by cops/security guards, getting citations, and even having our home owners associations tell us we were not allowed to build ramps and obstacles in our own backyards. This seems to be an issue of fairness, and in the big picture we’re kind of backed into a corner. We’re told not to skate on the streets, if we build our own stuff we’re told to tear it down.
Do you think if the city officials of Casselberry do provide a public skatepark for the community it would decrease the amount of skaters/bmxers getting into trouble for not having a proper place to partake in their chosen sport and in the big picture have a positive impact for the community?
A) There is no doubt it would decrease the potential for our neighborhood kids getting in trouble. I’ve had the awesome opportunity to talk with lots of them and they are so desperate for a space they can enjoy and call their own without fear of who is going to come around the corner to run them off. They’re just good kids that want to skate or ride, it that simple. The positives a skatepark will bring to Casselberry is going to surprise even the critics that will surely surface as plans move forward. The discipline, focus and determination that it takes to learn tricks becomes part of the kids who are out there pushing hard to land them. The lessons they learn at the skatepark will make them better citizens and successful business owners in the future. Beyond the character building that happens, I know that our community will benefit from the visitors that will make Casselberry a destination just for a chance to skate our park. Restaurants, convenience stores and local shop owners will benefit from the money spent by skaters who will visit from around the state.
E) That’s a wrap Larry, thank you for your time and your insightful words of wisdom. Hopefully the city officials of Casselberry will recognize this need and in the interest of fairness make this skatepark a reality for the community. We wish you the best of luck on your mission with SKATE 32707 and as fellow skateboarders we thank you for your commitment. The skateboard community needs more dedicated people like you that care and create the spark!!