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    Skaters dig launch of park

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 18, 2000


    DUNEDIN -- North Pinellas County's first public skate park opened in Dunedin Monday with dozens of young skaters zig-zagging through and over obstacles, twisting lanky bodies with every trick.

    Stirling Skate Park, a 10,000-square-foot area that also allows bikes, was built with the help of a $100,000 grant from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance program. It has platforms and rails designed to take a beating from young daredevils.

    Admission to the park is free for parkgoers with a Dunedin recreation identification card. Cards cost $5 for Dunedin residents and are good for two years. Non-residents pay $55 for one year. Cards also are good for the 275 other Dunedin recreational programs.

    The St. Petersburg Times asked two parkgoers to share their take on the new facility.

    Ryan Chabina, 21, Tarpon Springs, sophomore, University of South Florida:

    The time for building a park in this part of the county was way overdue.

    The new park is the only hassle-free area that North Pinellas skaters have -- other than the Tampa skate park and Central Skate on Ulmerton Road, which are between 30 and 40 minutes away.

    I like the layout and variety of ramps and boxes that were built. The angles to the ramps and boxes are good and the size range of the equipment accommodates all levels of skaters.

    Basically every different kind of obstacle that skaters use is in the park, with the exception of a staircase and handrail.

    If I had to find flaws with it, I could only spot a couple.

    The metal edges on the boxes aren't very sturdy and some of them are already dented from the grinding.

    I'm also not a big fan of the helmet rule. I think if you're old enough to sign a waiver, you should have the choice to wear a helmet or not.

    The surface is a little rough and it has a couple of cracks at some of the ramp bases. Other than that, it's a great place to skate and hang out.

    As far as suggestions go, I would recommend a concession stand so that no one goes thirsty.

    The park is going to have a real positive effect on skating in this area. It will definitely give all of us, who have nowhere other than businesses and shopping areas to skate, a safe and legal place to do what we do.

    I'm looking forward to spending a lot of time there. You certainly can't beat the price.

    Mark Moss, 15, Palm Harbor 10th-grader at Palm Harbor University High School:

    It gives me a place to skateboard where I don't have to worry about being asked to leave.

    The ramps are all really nice, but I'm just worried that the bikes and their pegs are going to tear up the ramps quickly.

    For starters, the metal rim that skaters grind their boards on should be stronger. I'm thinking it could get real bad after a while. It's okay while it's pretty new, but you can tell, in about a month and a half it's going to be torn up.

    I really like how you can move some of the ramps and rails around to make different patterns. The metal rails that are usually on the ground can be picked up and put on top of boxes. It's nice to be able to rearrange the ramps based on your skill level.

    If you want to try something new and different you have the option of being creative and that's nice.

    But what I don't understand is why it costs so much more if you live outside Dunedin. I guess the people who live there get priority but from $5 to $55, that's a big gap.

    If someone doesn't want to pay $55, I think there should be a way they can pay each time they come. I like being able to get the card, but I also think if kids want to go they should be able to pay to get in.

    It's a smaller park, but it's nice. All my friends who skated the park have really enjoyed it and we plan to go there a lot.

    Overall I'd rate the place about an 8 out of 10.

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