All Hands On Decks

It’s not often that a kid can claim that they’ve helped build a skate park. On the first day of the Gateway Center’s Spring Build and Jam, however, area youths were invited to the Soaring Up Skate Park so that they could help build and repair the ramps that they ride.

This marks the fourth year that the Gateway Center has hosted the event, which continues through Thursday. The Spring Build and Jam is held in conjunction with Community Helping Hands, and was designed to give local kids something positive to do during spring break while also raising funds for the skate park.

Shawn Dohl, manager of the skate park and family center, spoke about how he was glad that this opportunity was available. Looking back at the time he spent building ramps when he was younger, Dohl said kids are far more lucky these days, with multiple skate parks in Jamestown built with high-quality materials.

“I remember when I was younger, we’d build ramps that would have to sit outside, and they’d get rained on and have to be taken apart,” said Dohl. “Any time we could get some spare lumber from our parents, that’s what we would use. I think it’s great that the kids have a space like (The Gateway Center) to use; it’s so much safer.”

Thanks to some financial backers, the event was able to raise money for building materials before the official kick-off, something that was a novel idea for the Spring Build and Jam. According to Dohl, in past years the Soaring Up Skate Park has relied on funds raised during the event to pay for materials to build new ramps or repair the existing ones.

“We’d raise the money through admission to the event, then after everything was said and done, four or five guys would build a ramp,” said Dohl. “The kids were never really involved in it before. The way that we’re doing it this year, though, they get to help with the entire building process. This is much more hands on for the kids than it was in the past. One of the kids didn’t even know what a level was before today, so they’re learning things in the process, too.”

The ramp that was built this year took roughly six hours to complete, and even includes a rail that was customized to the shape of the ramp for skateboarders and BMX riders to use for performing grinds. Although some of the framing work for the ramp was done by a small team prior to the Spring Build and Jam, at the kick-off of the event Monday, nearly a dozen people showed up to finish the ramp and work on repairs around the rest of the skate park. Everyone who was at the Gateway Center on Monday was put to work, with people doing everything from welding the rail in place on the ramp and replacing plywood panels to sweeping and cleaning the skate park.

“We want the kids to be able to be proud of the new ramp that they’ve helped build,” said Dohl. “Hopefully it will help them have a little more respect for the park since they’ve had a hand in the process. The way that we did it this year, we were able to get the kids a lot more involved, which is great.”

The Spring Build and Jam will continue from 4-9 p.m. daily, and the cost to participate is $5 per day. The event will culminate with a “best trick” competition on Thursday night, and laser tag tournaments will be held tonight and Wednesday night, with a $50 team entry fee. The Soaring Up Skate Park is located on the second floor of The Gateway Center, 31 Water St., Jamestown. For more information about the event, call 487-1488, or visit www.thegatewaycetner.org.