Hot Springs opens new specialty skatepark

By Wayne Bryan Published April 3, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Avery Ingram, 15, tries out the ramps at the new skatepark in Hot Springs.

HOT SPRINGS — Skateboarders have been trying out the new ramps, half-pipes and rails at the new Valley Street Skatepark in Hot Springs, and the reviews vary according to the skill levels of the skaters.

The park opened March 27 with an official ribbon cutting, but heavy rains discouraged many skaters from attending the event.

As skies cleared over the next two days, scores of skaters visited the park for competitions, prizes and lots of skating in a festival atmosphere.

“We were not able to do much skating on the opening day because of the rain,” said Jean Wallace, director of the Hot Springs Parks and Recreation Department. “This is the third skateboard park the city has had. The old one is where the new parking lot is for this park.”

The new park cost $150,000 and was funded by a grant to the city and by sponsors. At 5,000 square feet, the park is the same size as the previous park.

“It is the same size, but it is lightyears ahead of the rickety, high-maintenance wooden ramps at the old park,” Wallace said.

Justin Thomas, the owner of Spa City Skate Shop, said he and other skateboard enthusiasts were consulted on the layout of the new park.

‘“We were asked to look at the design and see if we could make it better,” he said. “We talked about where some things were placed to give it more flow and to make it skater-friendly.”

Thomas was organizing the competition held March 28 that started with young skaters showing off their skills on the new ramps. The first youth competition was won by 8-year-old Cayden Parker. Cayden was applauded not only for what he could do on the board, but after one trick resulting in a crash where he landed hard on his back, the youngster popped back up and got on the board and repeated the trick successfully.

Second place went to Cayden’s brother Finn Parker, 7, who has been riding his skateboard for about a year.

Their father, Matt Parker, himself a skateboarder, said he likes the new park.

“It’s nice,” he said. “It is great that the city is getting behind us and building a new park.”

Spa City Skate Shop is a member of the Partners of the Park organization, a group of local businesses involved in promoting the parks system in Hot Springs. Wallace said many sports organization have been involved in making the proposed new skatepark a reality.

“Another major supporter has been Clay Fraley of Diamond Lake Water Sports,” Wallace said. “The company has gotten into skateboarding and took part in the three-day opening.”

The opening of the new park attracted skateboard fans from across the state. Nick Gibson of Boardertown Skate Shop in Fort Smith came to Hot Springs to try out the new park.

“The sport is thriving, and it is great there are more parks around,” he said, “so skaters will not be on the streets so much and will be safer.”

Along with other employees of the Fort Smith shop, Gibson said they had come to the new park to shoot videos for their website and to let people know about the parks around the state.

Gibson, 27, said he has been riding skateboards since he was 13 years old. He said many adults are staying on their boards as they get older.

“There are a lot of riders in their 20s and even 30s now,” he said. “Most people used to get out of skateboarding when they left high school, but that is not happening as much anymore.

“Coming to a new skate park like this is what we live for — the next rail, the next jump, the next park.”

The new park, at 411 Valley St. along Hot Springs Creek, is connected to the Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail system. For more information, call (501) 321-6871.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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