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story.lead_photo.caption The skate park at the Jacksonville Community Center will host Bikes, Blades and Boards on Friday, a chance for skaters to get tips and have fun on the ramps. - Photo by Stephen B. Thornton

As the weather warms up and spring finally starts to take hold, the skate park at the Jacksonville Community Center starts buzzing with kids on skates, bikes, boards and scooters.

“If the weather’s nice, kids are there as soon as school’s out,” says Marlo Jackson, information/marketing manager for Jacksonville Parks and Recreation.

A busy skate park is a positive thing. The kids are outside in the fresh air. They’re not cooped up indoors firmly attached to electronic devices. Still, skateboarding doesn’t always have the best reputation.

“Skateboarders get a lot of flak,” Jackson says. “We thought it would be a positive community event for the kids. Get kids away from video games.”

That’s part of the motivation behind Bikes, Blades and Boards, a special event at 10 a.m. Friday, to give the skate park and the kids who use it a little positive attention.

Jackson says the parks and recreation department tries to present two community events per month: “We really started looking at areas we don’t usually focus on. Skateboarding is right outside our door, but it’s not one of those areas we’ve really zeroed in on.”

For Bikes, Blades and Boards, kids are invited to take their scooters, bikes, skateboards and inline skates (and helmets, of course) and give rolling around the park a whirl. There’s no fee to attend and it’s open to everyone.

Besides the usual chance to skate, there will be some special guests. Representatives from the Jacksonville Police Department will offer safety tips, and a food truck will sell slushies. They’ll also have representatives from J&P Bike Shop in Sherwood, who will supply tools and expertise to do some minor repairs and give the young skaters and bikers some advice.

“They’re not there to sell their stuff,” Jackson says. “They’re there to talk to the kids.”

There’s also hope that the kids will talk to one another, with the older, more experienced skaters lending a hand and giving younger ones a few pointers.

The organizers are planning to add an obstacle course to the park for the event.

“I don’t know how extreme that will be because this is for all ages,” Jackson says. “It may be something simple [that] a 5-year-old can do.”

As for the parents, they’re welcome to take part or watch, which they can do at the park or at the community center and its walking tracks next door.

Of course, this isn’t the sort of event that can be moved indoors, so anyone planning to attend should pay attention to the weather forecast.

The ultimate goal is to give the children a sense of pride and ownership in their community amenities, Jackson says: “We try to let them know, ‘We put this here for you guys. Take care of it.’”

The Jacksonville Skate Park is at 5 Municipal Drive. For more information, call (501) 982-4171 or visit

Weekend, Pages 36 on 03/27/2014

Print Headline: Jacksonville skate event set

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