BY MASTON MORWICK
In the heart of DeLand’s main recreational complex, the Earl Brown Park Skate Park has sat largely unchanged since it was built 20 years ago.
These days, the Skate Park is frequently vacant. Its metal structures are often too hot to use, and the concrete pad too rough to safely ride on.
DeLand Parks and Recreation Director Rick Hall knows the Skate Park needs work. Improvements were delayed, Hall said, because of a misunderstanding of how much renovation was allowed under guidelines of the Volusia County ECHO grant program that funded the park.
“I misunderstood the ECHO restrictions,” Hall said. “We are free to make improvements or entirely rebuild a new skate park if we decide to go in that direction.”
Now, DeLand-area skaters have hope that the park will be revamped. Hall said a complete rebuilding is in the city’s five-year capital-improvement program.
For now, the only Skate Park in DeLand is a collection of metal structures, such as grind rails, “funboxes,” half-pipes and ramps on top of rough, raked concrete. These obstacles have been appreciated by skaters who want to hone or show off their skills, but, increasingly, the Florida heat and the Skate Park’s age pose problems.
“First and foremost, the concrete has to be fixed. No two ways about that,” DeLand resident and professional skater Bill Danforth said.
Danforth, who has been skating professionally since the late 1980s, has toured to skate parks all over the world.
He pointed out other problems with DeLand’s park, including the harsh ramps, cramped layout, the disheveled appearance of the structures, and a lack of the variety needed to accommodate different styles and skill levels.
But the most immediate problem may be the concrete, Danforth said.
“Skaters can’t do anything when the ground is that rugged,” he said. “It hurts the flow of the park, worse than how it already is.”
With the current floor of the Skate Park, it is not uncommon for riders to fall off their boards due to big cracks, pebbles or uneven paving. Skate parks normally require smooth, uncracked concrete that allows skaters’ wheels to roll easily and slide around better than on street concrete.
“It is in our scope to make improvements to this facility,” Hall explained.
Hall said it will take a few years to design a new park. While locals wait for this process to begin, they can also help by taking some matters into their own hands.
“If the local youth put together a group, who really want to create a proposal together to share some ideas and designs, that would be fantastic,” Hall said. “When we get to that point, we would love community feedback.”
Some skaters have taken to the streets as an alternative to the aging park. Public conflicts about street skating can be avoided if skaters can design their own dream park, working with City Hall.
Furthermore, improving the Earl Brown Skate Park may not only create a breath of fresh life at the Skate Park, but also help bring the community closer together by giving skaters a safe place to gather and learn from each other.
For now, Hall said, treating the park with respect is a concern.
“The biggest concern as of right now, is for the locals to keep the Skate Park clean and safe. Take pride in the Earl Brown Skate Park while you have it,” he said.
While DeLand skaters wait for changes in the upcoming years, it’s in the youths’ best interest to keep the current park alive and well in the meantime.
— Morwick is a senior at DeLand High School. He’s interning with The Beacon.