In Glencoe kids took the initiative. "Teens approached the Glencoe administration to request a skate park," says superintant of parks Rick Bold. "We wanted to do something for this age group who aren't into `normal' sports such as baseball, and we also wanted to design ours so younger kids could use it too."
Glencoe and Highland Park are among the many communities in the Chicago area that have skate parks now. The Chicago Park District is in the process of converting several tennis courts into skate parks and building a brand new park from scratch.
The skate park in Glencoe was designed so that beginners could use it too, which created a problem. "At first the younger kids were skating in places where they would get run over by the older ones," explains Bold, "but when they got yelled at they didn't do it again. The kids have worked out most of the problems on their own. It only becomes more complicated when adults get involved."
Another problem is inevitable in skateboarding and in-line skating, which are aptly categorized as extreme sports. While skate parks require, or strongly recommend, helmets and even pads to protect elbows and knees and guards to keep wrists from getting injured, risk-taking is a part of the game. "Injuries are just going to happen any time you have concrete and people on wheels," explains Evans.
Twenty-seven-year old Zach Winston, who was fearless when he started skateboarding around the streets of Evanston before he was even in his teens, is fully aware of the dangers now. "When I get on a skateboard I'm just too scared I'm going to fall so I don't even want to risk it," he says.
Winston, however, is still involved in skateboarding, but in a different way. He is co-partner of a company called Local 842 that designs skate parks, including the ones in Evanston, Highland Park, Glencoe and Vernon Hills.
"I like to put as many ramps into a space as I can and lay it out right so it's an easy flow, so kids aren't running into each other," Winston explains. He also likes to cover the parks surface with a coating called Skate-lite. He says, "It's smooth and doesn't get damaged by weather and chewed up by skateboard wheels, and after the rain you can towel it dry and skate right away."
The skate park he designed in Glencoe behind the Community Center is nestled in an opening of a grove of trees behind the Community Center. The bucolic setting is in contrasts with the whack of skateboards landing on a hard surface and the whoosh of fast-spinning wheels -- sounds that are in contrast with the bucolic setting and drown out the squeals of delight of little children having fun on play equipment near by. Fifteen-year-old Jack Connor takes the bus from his home in Wilmette to skateboard in the park about twice a week. When he was 12, he started learning the sport in his basement when he was 12 because he got his first skateboard in the wintertime. Now he can do tricks such as ollies, kick flips, shove its and combinations and variations of them.
"Skateboarding is an individual sport, so you don't have to try to be better than anybody - and it's really creative because there are so many things you can do," Connors says. He likes the sport for the thrill of it too. He says, "When you go down stairs or jump off of something, that's the best, that's really cool."
Evans says he finds that the skateboard culture is similar to that of surfboarding, which he practiced when he was growing up in Florida. "Skateboarders have a love for the sport and a knowledge of it, and they get excited doing the same thing over and over again," he says. "It may be the same jump, but it's never exactly the same, just as in surfing it's never the same wave, so each time is as exciting as the first."
Here is a sampling of skate parks in the Chicagoland area. To locate others contact your local park district and YMCA. Helmets, elbow and knee pads and wrist guards are usually required or recommended. All skate parks listed are outdoors unless otherwise indicated. Outdoor parks are closed when wet after a rainfall. The days and hours listed are for the summer season.
Chicago Park District Skate Parks: Burnham Park Skate Park, south of 31st St. at Lake Shore Drive: opening mid-Sept., 20,000 sq. ft., spines, pyramids and a bowl, as well as urban elements such as benches, curbs, rails and stairs; areas for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels. Tennis courts converted into skate parks: Kilbourne Park, 3501 N. Kilbourne Ave., open; Legion Park, between Peterson and Foster Avenues along the Chicago River, open; Durkin Park, 8445 S. Kolin Ave., opening end of August; Gompers Park, 4222 W. Foster Ave., opening end of Aug. 312-742-PLAY.
Deerfield Park District, Jewett Park, 836 Jewett Park Drive, Deerfield, 847-945-0650: sunrise-dusk, unsupervised, 12,000 sq. ft., features include a 71/2 ft. dish, free.
Evanston Recreation Dept., Robert Crown Center, 1701 Main St., Evanston, 847-328-9400: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, supervised, 7,500 sq. ft., features include a 15 ft. high vertical ramp, half-pipe, quarter-pipe, mini-ramp, fun box and rails, Skate-lite surface; $30 residents, $45 non-residents for season pass, plus $5 daily fee.
Glencoe Park District Skate Park, 999 Green Bay Rd., Glencoe, 847-835-3030: sun-up to dusk, supervised from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays and 8 a.m.-11 a.m. Saturdays for ages 9 and under, unsupervised at other times, 65 ft. x 125 ft., equipment includes an 8 ft. tall platform and a 5 ft. high half-pipe and low level pieces for beginners; free.