By Chris Henry
Leslie Reynolds can't do a kick turn or an ollie. At 56, she's not about to try a 180, let alone a 360. But Reynolds, whose 15-year-old son Zack Taylor has been skateboarding since he was 3, is behind South Kitsap's skater crowd all the way.
Reynolds, president of South Kitsap Skatepark Association, will be standing on the sidelines Saturday, cheering on Zack and other contestants at a "Ramp Jam" at South Kitsap Regional Park, at the corner of Jackson and Lund avenues.
The event is a fundraiser for the permanent skateboarding facility planned for the park.
Kitsap County has committed $300,000 toward the first phase of the one-acre facility, to be designed by Newline Skateparks of British Columbia, as part of its plan for the 200-acre park. The county last year developed a master plan for the park that will address a range of recreational pursuits.
The all-volunteer skatepark group, formed in 2008, has been working to bring a "world-class" facility to South Kitsap since the county obtained the park in 2007.
They have committed to raise $100,000 in cash and in-kind donations toward the $400,000 it will take to build the first phase of the skatepark. The group has raised about $25,000 so far, Reynolds said, aided by a recent $5,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.
The Ramp Jam will feature a full-size wooden skateboard course built by Ian Wilhelm, the groups' treasurer and an avid skater. Due to liability issues, the course will be in the park for this event only — when group members can supervise — but Wilhelm will keep the pieces for future events.
The jam will include contests for beginner, intermediate and advanced skaters. Four local bands — The Neon Nights, F'n A's, Valkyries and The Enemies Of — will provide the entertainment.
"I'm sure these aren't groups I would listen to, but I don't have to," Reynolds said. "I'm just there to provide a service."
While there are skate parks in other areas of the county, South Kitsap skaters have struggled through the years to find a place to call their own, according to Reynolds.
A volunteer-built wooden course was at the park when it was still owned by South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District, but it was dismantled several years ago. Likewise, an indoor facility and music venue in Port Orchard's Key Bank shopping center closed more than five years ago after two years of operation.
Ken Parker, a Kitsap County Juvenile Court probation officer and member of the skatepark association, can attest to the need for a skatepark accessible to South Kitsap youth.
"There's a lot of kids I work with that get chased off parking lots. So for them to have something like this in South Kitsap for kids would be huge," Parker said.
There are four skateparks in other areas of the county — Silverdale, Bremerton, Kingston and Poulsbo. But distance is an obstacle to some — especially young — skaters, Wilhelm said. Also skateboarding has evolved since most of these were built, he said. Today's skaters are looking for new challenges to satisfy their ever evolving skills.
The new facility "will make Port Orchard a destination in the skating world," Wilhelm said.
Construction on the first phase of the skatepark could begin before the end of the year, said Martha Droge, the county's parks project coordinator. The county's portion of funding comes in part from a $500,000 grant from the state's Recreation Conservation Office. The county committed to funding recreation development at the park when it assumed ownership in 2007. A portion of the money, dedicated to parks capital funding, was used as a match to secure the RCO grant.
The county is also planning for a new playground at the park, which will also be partly funded through the RCO grant. Droge met this week with park users interested in the playground design. The group will meet again June 17; the public is welcome. For more information visit the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Department's Web site.
- What: Ramp Jam, hosted by South Kitsap Skatepark Association
- When: noon to 7 p.m. Saturday
- Where: South Kitsap Regional Park
- What: Contests for skaters of all skill levels ($10 entry fee), four local bands, barbecue