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Athens’ skater community wants their skate park back

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Student skater Noah Yonkers speaks to Student Senate's leadership. Photo by Tim Zelina

Athens skateboarders are railing on the university for dismantling their skate park, citing safety concerns for skaters and pedestrians.

Athens’ skateboarders are upset with Ohio University’s decision to tear down their community-built skate park and refusing to permit them to construct another. 

Now, they’ve organized to make their voices heard. 

At a recent Student Senate town hall meeting, skater and Ohio U student Noah Yonkers led a group of skating enthusiasts in a request for Ohio U to permit them to return to a makeshift skate park built by skaters on a South Green basketball court. Despite appealing to Student Senate, the future of the skate park remains uncertain.

Construction of the makeshift park by skaters began about three years ago without university supervision on an unused basketball court with no hoops, Yonkers said. Dozens of skaters flocked to the court for a reliable hang-out spot, leading to new friendships and a vibrant community of skater friends.

The conversion from dilapidated court to community skate park began when a former student placed the first rail on the court. He was soon followed by other skaters who brought obstacles and other materials to skate on and around.

The skaters were under the impression that it was okay to use the court as their skate park because it had been vacant until its recent conversion, and Ohio U never gave any indication that the park was in violation of university rules.

When Housing and Residence Life decided to repave the basketball courts this semester, it moved the skatepark equipment out of the way. Yonkers said he thought this meant they’d be able to use the skatepark after the repaving, but the university had other plans. 

“Our stuff was just moved out of the way for repaving, but, as soon as it was completed, it all disappeared entirely,” he said.

Res. Life told The New Political it does not manage the skate park and redirected questions to the maintenance department, which did not respond for comment.

However, Yonkers said he received an email from Res. Life stating that students are not allowed to leave personal items on the courts.

That left the Ohio U skating community in a bind, believing they have nowhere safe to skate whether in groups or alone. 

Athens does have a city skatepark, but Yonkers said it’s too far from campus, making it difficult for students living in residence halls to reach. He also said the park is in disrepair and its layout is not accommodating to casual skaters. 

“People seem to assume the city skatepark must be great because it’s large, but it’s dominated by massive ramps that only elite skaters can skate. Other key features of the park are crumbling, the stuff that’s supposed to be flat isn’t and the concrete is coarse all over,” he said.

The skaters argue it’s a safety issue for skaters to not have a dedicated place to skate. With the park, skaters could stay out of the way of traffic and pedestrians. But since the loss of their makeshift park, the skaters reverted to crowded city streets to enjoy their hobby.

“Now I’m skating on sidewalks, waiting for traffic to die down to try a trick,” Yonkers said.

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