Brown County teens have 14 months to raise $10,000.
Then, they’re on their way toward realizing a longtime dream of building a teen park.
Since the beginning of this year, Kids on Wheels have been working to create a safe place for young adults and the community to gather and to skateboard.
They earned their first grant from the Brown County Community Foundation last month. It’s a $10,000 matching grant, so to receive it, they must raise a $10,000 match.
That will be only a percentage of how much funding they think they’ll need.
In addition to a place to skate, the kids envision the park to have tractor tire swings, a hammock chair conversation pit, picnic tables with cellphone charging stations, restrooms, an amphitheater with a large TV and fire pit, and poles for Christmas light displays. Their plans also show a gaga pit, which is a dodgeball-type game.
They want to host Friday night movie nights at the amphitheater.
“We’re thinking of a teen park — and that’s what we want to present to people, is that this isn’t a skate park,” parent Colleen Smith said.
“We just want it to be something the kids really want to be at, and it gets used by not just the teens, but the whole community.”
Kids on Wheels is student-led with adult advisers. It operates as a nonprofit under the BETA Teen Center.
Smith is the mother of Isaiah Smith, who is the project manager for Kids on Wheels. The two have been working on writing grants, the most recent one being to the Tony Hawk Foundation for $25,000.
The students estimate that building a 4,000-square-foot skate park would cost around $92,000. That’s their bid from Hunger Skateparks, an Indiana skate park and design company. The end cost could be much less with donated materials and labor.
Shelby Materials already has agreed to give Kids on Wheels a discount on concrete. Ashford Formula will donate concrete sealer. KOW also has a land designer who will provide documents for state and local permitting, the kids told the Nashville Town Council last month.
Isaiah got involved after attending a KOW meeting at the Brown County Public Library earlier this year. He attends school in Columbus and has picked the teen park as his senior project, which is required for graduation.
Isaiah, 17, lives in Nashville and has been skateboarding since he was 6.
“It was a sport that made me very happy and I was extremely passionate about it. It gave me an outlet when things seemed overwhelming,” he wrote in his letter of support for the park.
“If we combat the chance of illegal activity and promote better well being, while also allowing kids to spend their time making a positive difference and avoiding potential reckless behavior elsewhere, this seems only to be a beneficial project for everyone involved.”
KOW has received numerous letters of support from local entities like the Department of Child Services, Centerstone, the Brown County YMCA, Brown County Parks and Recreation and the Brown County School Corporation among others.
Brenda Dewees with the probation department, Christy Thrasher with BETA and Mark Shields with parks and rec also have been helping with fundraising, said Clara Stanley, one of the founding adult members of KOW.
“We are supportive of our students engaging in skateboarding that is safe; therefore, the idea of a skate park is appealing, as the structure will be suited for this very cause,” Superintendent Laura Hammack wrote in her letter of support.
Last school year, the Brown County School Board of Trustees voted to ban skateboards, rollerskates, scooters and rollerblades from being ridden on all Brown County Schools properties after two “close calls” where administrators almost hit students on skateboards.
“Providing this type of opportunity means providing our community with alternatives to many other activities that are unsafe and dangerous, such as drug use and theft, both of which are common for children who lack positive activities and options,” DCS director Harmony Gist wrote in her letter.
Brown County Guardian ad Litem Director Sallyann Murphey agreed.
“Young people with nowhere to go defaulted to meeting in parking lots, where time on their hands sometimes led to bad decision making,” Murphey wrote.
Space to skate
One part of the plan the teens aren’t sure of yet is where the park would go.
One option is building it at Deer Run Park, on six acres that the county parks department recently bought.
But one big roadblock stands in the way: it’s not easily accessible by teens who don’t drive.
“We don’t want people going down Helmsburg Road,” Isaiah Smith said.
“As time moved on, we realized it might be better to put in town and go straight from school to the park.”
One place the teens were looking at is behind Subway and CVS, at the dead end of Jefferson Street. The large, green lot is owned by Lucinda David and Robert Vernon.
The teens approached the owners about using the property for a skate park, but no commitments were made.
At the June 15, Nashville Town Council meeting, KOW members asked the council to consider being the owner of the skate park if it was built in town and possibly bringing it under the town’s insurance policy.
The council did not agree to own a skate park, but they said that parks and recreation could own land in Nashville.
“I really do like the idea of a skate park. I think it’s fabulous, but I prefer it be someone other than town that owns and operates it,” said Buzz King, council president.
On July 19, the group plans to go before the Brown County Commissioners to see if they would take ownership of the park.
In Bloomington, the city’s parks and recreation department manages and owns one of the two skate parks. Plans are in process to build a third park in that county, too.
John Turnbill, the division sports director for the City of Bloomington, said the city has yet to encounter any insurance claim or liability issues with the skate park since in opened in 2004.
He said the skate park is operated the same as a public tennis court, playground or basketball court. It is an unsupervised active area for use by all people.
“It should be noted the skateboarding population has been proven to be a litigious-adverse group. That is, they are not oriented to sue,” Turnbill wrote.
Turnbill suggested that any skate park owner should carry general liability insurance even though skate parks are protected under Indiana Code 34-13-3-3, which prevents a government entity from being liable if someone gets hurt using the property.
To ensure this, the skate park must be maintained, like fixing broken pieces, and signs need to be posted at the entrances that show the rules and warn of hazards associated with the extreme sport, the law says.
Emma Snyder is one of the Brown County High School students who has been involved with the skate park project since the beginning. She is the secretary of KOW. Chris Hayes is the president.
Snyder is also one of the teens who wanders around town looking for something to do if her parents can’t pick her up right after school.
“Basically, my two places after school if my parents are busy are Noble Romans (the BP gas station) or the library, or just walk laps around town,” she said.
“It’s not fun.”
Isaiah said local kids feel like they aren’t welcome.
“They haven’t done anything. … Everywhere they go they’re being told to go somewhere else,” he said.
“I would just love more than anything to see something that’s really made for skateboarders and that would just really allow skateboarders a place to go. Furthermore, if we can, (make) a teen park and give anybody something to do.”
Colleen Smith said skateboarding is now the the third-most popular teen sport, behind basketball and football. Every year, 215,000 children ages 5 to 14 are treated for football injuries and 170,000 for basketball-related injuries. It drops to 66,000 for skateboarding injuries, according to Sport Safety International.
“When you look at the statistics, it’s a safe environment for them,” Colleen Smith said. “It’s hard to get past that stigma, but it’s a popular sport and they need to start embracing it.”
Stanley said she believes the teen park is a way to bring the entire community together to focus on the next generation of leaders.
“It’s not just, ‘We need your money.’ It’s not like that. We want you, your involvement and you participate in the future of our children, our students,” she said.
For the next year, Kids on Wheels is accepting donations through the Brown County Community Foundation as they try to raise $10,000 to get a matching grant they’ve been offered from the foundation.
Donations marked for Kids on Wheels can be sent to or dropped off at the Brown County Community Foundation.
The mailing address is P.O. Box 191 Nashville, IN 47448.
The physical address is 209 N. Van Buren St., across from Hotel Nashville.
Mail must be sent to the post office box, not the Van Buren Street address.
The Nashville Town Council is considering making a route for skateboarding through Nashville.
Right now, it’s only allowed in a three-block stretch on one street.
The council was approached on June 15 by Gage Brunton, a Brown County High School graduate who’s home for the summer from school in New York City.
A town policy in place since 2002 restricts skateboarding, rollerblading, rollerskating and riding scooters to Johnson Street from Mound to Franklin streets. Before that ordinance was passed, skateboarding and rollerblading had been banned entirely from town since 1989.
Brunton asked the council to consider opening more streets to skateboarders that are away from the main streets tourists travel. Right now, there is no way for them to legally ride their skateboards to or from the Brown County Schools campus.
In his letter to the council, Brunton said he rode a bicycle often until he moved to New York City and took up skateboarding as a way of transportation.
When he returned home he said he was riding his board in town every day for a week until a Nashville Police officer told him skateboarding was not allowed in town. The officer told him it was allowed on school property, but he was stopped again for skating in an empty school parking lot three weeks later.
Last November, the Brown County School Board of Trustees banned skateboards, rollerskates, scooters and rollerblades from being ridden on all Brown County Schools properties because of safety concerns and several close calls.
Council President Buzz King expressed concerns about skaters jumping curbs and using the boards as transportation throughout the entire town. King, who lives on Johnson Street, said he’s had to move inside from his screened-in porch because the noise is so loud from skateboarders clapping and banging their boards. He said they had damaged new curbing in the past, too; and he also had nearly hit several skateboarders with his vehicle.
His concerns are not just about noise, but about safety, too, he said.
Brunton said he would advise the skaters to not go on the curbs and remain in parking lots. He said there’s a difference between doing tricks on skateboards and using them for transportation.
Local shop owner Nancy Crocker suggested making a three-month trial period for a designated skateboarding route. Council member Dave Rudd said he would support that.
Town attorney Jim Roberts said he would look into the rules for skateboarders in other communities, such as whether they have to wear helmets and follow traffic signs.
Brunton noted that in New York City, skateboarders must follow the same traffic laws as cars. He said helmets are required and skating is prohibited on sidewalks.
“The youth of this town are a part of the community, and I would hope that our community does sympathize with the fact that students and young adults have nothing to do in town,” Brunton wrote in his letter. “This law has been present since 1989 and times have changed since then, and I ask you to consider if a few skaters would damage everything this town represents?”