A Stirling thank-you
By EILEEN SCHULTE
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2001
DUNEDIN -- While crews from Big Daddy Inc. labored to build the Stirling Skate Park, children would stand outside the fence holding their skateboards, waiting.
Because the skaters had waited two years for the opening of the park behind Dunedin's Stirling Recreation Center, city leaders skipped the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony and let the kids use the park immediately.
Now, two months later, the city wants to dedicate the park as a "thank-you" to everyone who helped its creation. Saturday will feature ceremonies, demonstrations, clinics, vendors, exhibits, a DJ, giveaways and food.
"We're just really proud of it," said Dunedin city commissioner Janet Henderson. "We're pretty much at the forefront of skate parks in this area."
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, city officials and members of the original skate park task force have been invited to attend.
"I'm going to be there," said Harry Gross, Dunedin's director of leisure services. "It was a long time getting the park open -- a two-year process. We thought after all that, it would be nice to have a grand opening."
The skate park averages 65 visitors per day, "depending on the weather," said Betty Haynes, program coordinator for the recreation center. Even adults occasionally use it, sometimes with painful results.
"Our parks superintendent wiped out," said Gross, laughing.
Users of the park have broken bones while trying some extreme and not-so-extreme moves, but that is because they haven't been wearing wrist guards and other safety equipment, Haynes said. Skaters must wear helmets and sign waivers for admittance.
Haynes said plans call for the installation of a security camera, so city workers can watch skaters from inside the recreation center. Bleachers will be installed next to the park so parents and others can watch the action. The concrete slab has been poured, Gross said, and he is getting estimates on the stands.
The park, which has "been in constant use" since it opened, isn't popular with just locals, the director of leisure services said. People from as far away as Hartford, Conn., and Long Island, N.Y., have asked Gross for help in building their own parks.
"I'm not sure how they're finding out about us," Gross said.
Maybe Big Daddy Inc. tells potential customers about it. Or maybe young people who love their skate park tell Northern friends by word of mouth or e-mails about it.
"The teens are grateful," Haynes said.
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