People began to trickle into Laramie’s skatepark around 9 a.m. for a Learn to Skate Session, held by the local group Friends of the Laramie Skatepark. Loner skateboards, extra pads and even doughnuts were all presented for any skaters who want to learn to skate, or improve their skateboarding skills.
The event was held on Saturday, Sept. 20. and was the fourth one that the group has organized this summer. There are a couple goals that the Learn to Skate Sessions are meant to accomplish.
Local family enjoys Learn to Skate Session
“It’s about promoting comradery” said Josh Kaffer, the creator of Friends of the Laramie Skatepark. “This is a good way for the little kids to meet the older guys so they can feel more comfortable coming to the park.”
It seemed to be working, as most of the younger skaters in attendance were coupled up with an older counterpart that was giving them pointers. Parents also stood by cheering their children on or talking with some of the older instructors.
The kids in attendance were bringing a wide variety of skill sets to the park that morning. Some were learning how to “drop in” to the concrete bowl, while other kids were learning the basics of being able to go on a skateboard. Either way, the older skaters that were acting as instructors were more than happy to help assist them.
Kaffer was teaching one of the younger kids, Sean, how kick while on the skateboard while his mother watched from the grass.
“This is our first time skating, so I just tell him to try and not fall down” said Sean’s mother.
Friends of the Laramie Skatepark
Friends of the Laramie Skatepark is an organization that was started in the spring of 2014. It was organized by Kaffer and other local skaters in the area who did not like where things were headed with their park.
Issues about mismanagement were at the forefront of their concerns.
Before Friends of the Laramie Skatepark began to make improvements, the park looked very different. The concrete was covered in graffiti, the rails that go around the concrete bowl were often rusted over and the park was a known hang out for trouble makers.
Kaffer began to attend board meetings for Laramie’s Park and Recreation Department and would inquire about improving the park and present goals for them to reach.
“When we went to the master plan meeting for the whole year for Parks and Recreation, the first question I asked was: What else is on the list, besides expanding the skatepark, for kids from the ages of 12-15?” Kaffer said. “There was nothing.”
Today, the park looks very different. All the graffiti has been painted over, the rails are all in good shape and most loiterers are asked to leave the park if they do not intend to skate.
Another organizer of Friends of the Laramie Skatepark, Conor Mullen, explained what their mission was.
“We want to make sure that skateboarding is a communal activity in and around Laramie.” said Mullen. “We want to make sure that everybody and anybody has access to the park and can feel comfortable there.”
Two young skaters get the hang of the skatepark’s concrete bowl
Platform for Community
It seemed that Friends of the Laramie Skatepark has accomplished their mission. That Saturday morning was a good example of the potential a well-kept skatepark has in Laramie.
The Learn to Skate Sessions have been growing since their first event that was held in June 2014. The people in attendance had heard of the event either by following the organization’s Facebook page, or word of mouth.
“We heard about this from another mom who had brought her kid here and they really enjoyed it,” said Maureen, a mother of a young skateboarder. “He really seems to be enjoying this”
Kaffer seemed to be content with the turnout, and had a seemed to have a sense of pride when explain the Learn to Skate Session.
“You know, kids are going to find something to do, whether that is playing video games in their house or doing drugs,” says Kaffer “If we as a community, don’t offer an alternative… or worse yet we already have one and we discourage it, then who are we failing?”
Their mission seems to be working. Most of the younger kids that hang out at the park regularly are starting to enforce the rules of Friends of the Laramie Skatepark. They clean up broken glass, don’t let anyone spray paint in the park and enforce the no loitering rule.
“Really what we are trying to do is use skateboarding and the skatepark as a platform for building community” said Mullen.
The skatepark is becoming exactly how the organization is envisioning it.