It's been my experience that kids still skateboard, but the only real exercise they get is in their thumbs, via a video game system controller. That notion is discounted by David Buzzell, the City of Round Rock's parks development manager.
"The last five to 10 years it's been a pretty consistent, popular sport, and I think a lot of that has to do with the X Games and things like that," he says.
Buzzell ought to know. He was among those responsible for Round Rock's Shaylah Dame Skatepark, behind the Clay Madsen Recreation Center at 1600 Gattis School Road. The park, which opened in July 2007, is named after a young woman who was killed in a pedestrian automobile accident in front of the center (the Park District recently held a 5k race in her honor at the skate park).
Maybe Buzzell is right. I remember when my son was younger and I made frequent trips to Hot Topic at Lakeline Mall where he would drool over the boards — or "decks" — that he dreamed of having, and I would be cajoled into advancing him loans on his allowance.
But somewhere around late middle school, when he and his buddies stopped strapping on pads and helmets and careening down our driveway into the street in front of our house, I probably just stopped paying attention.
The skate park was conceived in 2001 when a city survey revealed it was one of the top three recreational facilities Round Rock citizens wanted (along with more trails and a dog park). Buzzell wasn't surprised by the interest. "Outside of organized sports at that time, we didn't have a lot of activities or facilities for teenagers," he says.
Awarded a grant in 2004 from Texas Parks and Wildlife, planners solicited public input from 15 to 20 local skaters in 2006 and commissioned a skate park designer.
"At the time there weren't a ton of communities building skate parks," Buzzell says. "It's definitely something we weren't experienced in, so we wanted to bring in a professional who knew what they were doing."
The facility is operated and managed like a regular city park, meaning that there is no usage fee and anybody is welcome to use it, regardless of residence. Numerous age groups frequent the facility, from 4- and 5-year-olds up to those in their 40s.
"During the week I went out to do a photo shoot, and it was, like, six dads who were skateboard fanatics," says Parks and Recreation spokesman Roger Heaney. "They had the skate boards, the helmets, the whole ball of wax."
Apparently, they had grown up skateboarding on the streets with little homemade, wooden half-pipes and have returned to the hobby now that there are nice, public facilities available.
But they're not necessarily in the skatepark's target demographic.
"A lot of what we do here in Parks and Recreation is we try and get kids out of their houses and into our parks," Heaney says. "The skate park does get families out together, and it gets kids and teenagers physically active. It gives them something safe to do."
"It's definitely an active sport that would be considered a fitness activity," Buzzell adds. "If you watch those guys when they're out there skating for an hour or two, they're sweating pretty bad."
The park opens daily at 6 a.m., and the lights go out at 11 p.m. Late-night hours are especially popular in the summer.
"In the middle of July, it's not real pleasant to be out on a bunch of concrete," Buzzell admits.
Contact Dale Roe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-5923