Yesterday was the groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase of the Bethlehem Skateplaza. The Skateplaza has been a great addition to our remarkable city and would not have happened without a lot of hard work and incredible vision of people like Andy Po owner of the Homebase skate shop, Mayor John Callahan, Ralph Carp from the City Parks and Recreation Department, Lorne Possinger of DCNR, and many others. It was great to see so many out to support this worthwhile venture. I could go on and on about all the positive benefits we all get from having such a great facility here in Bethlehem, but Andy Po did it better than I ever could in his blog. So here it is:
The link is here, and the full story is below:
The Real Story Behind Groundbreaking Day.
At the Homebase 10th Anniversary Jam, Ralph Carp announced that construction would begin on the second phase of the Bethlehem Skateplaza in 2-3 weeks. Well, that timetable must have gotten pushed up after the amazing weekend we had (full wrap-up of the 10th Anniversary events will be posted up Saturday) because today we tossed some dirt in the air to commemorate the start of construction of Phase 2 which will almost double the Bethlehem Skateplaza in size. Feel free to stand a cheer wherever you may be while you read that. But truth is, regardless of how amazing this project is for the community- HATERS ‘GONNA HATE and you need to know the facts so you can educate a hater when you encounter them. Please remember, these haters are only doing their job and you may not be able to talk sense into them and in that case, just smile, shake your head and skate away. On a perfect May afternoon, a large crowd of skaters, BMXers, parents, skateplaza supporters, community leaders, press, local politicians, police officers, neighborhood locals, members of Bethlehem’s Parks & Rec Department, representatives of the State DCNR commission and of course, Mayor John Callahan all gathered just past the fence enclosing Phase 1 in a show of solidarity of the plaza’s continued expansion. Once construction begins, FA Rohrbach believes it will be a 150 daybuild out til it’s ready to skate.The naysayers who continue to stereotype this culture were not there. They must have been too busy ripping at down progress from their keyboards. The other politicians who only judge us from afar were not there. Giving a long overlooked demographic a place to stay active in a safe environment isn’t an investment they must want to make since they continue to hide behind outdated stereotypes that skateparks and skateplazas are haven’s for “trouble” and a waste of the City’s resources. I guess they didn’t show up so they don’t have to listen to the truth of what the skateplaza has done since it opened.Truths like . . .
- The skateplaza is one of the MOST used city facilities by it’s citizens that is packed on a daily basis all year long. (I guess investing in the types of ammenities people want isn’t right- right?)
- The skateplaza is one of least visited public properties the Police get called to for problems like public drinking, vandalism and fighting. In fact, it’s actually helping make sure our law enforcement can focus on the city’s real problems. (Oh wait? Is that HELPING use of public resources better?)
- The skateplaza has probably one of the LOWEST upkeep costs to the city without a raise in insurance and maybe the only public park the Parks Department employees don’t have to clean because it’s users do it for them. (Tisk, tisk! Damn kids cleaning up after themselves.)
- The skateplaza is primarily funded by dollars specifically meant for open space community projects. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s (DCNR) directors have CHOSEN to award Bethlehem 1.5 million in State grant funding for the skateplaza and greater Greenway Project. They come to these groundbreakings to show their support for the project they CHOSE to believe in.
- The skateplaza is one of the only places you routinely see old, young, rich, poor and people of all different races in Bethlehem all together doing something they love to stay active while they interact with each other without any major problems. (Guess those kinds of lessons aren’t important to encourage to some people.)
I know how passionate Mayor Callahan and Ralph Carp are about the Bethlehem Skateplaza but it took it to a whole new level to hear Lorne Possinger from DCNR speak. He told a story about visiting another town in Pennsylvania that had a “problem” with skaters so you couldn’t drive a block without seeing a “No Skateboarding” sign. Instead of listening to the needs of their community, the City was requesting Lorne give them funding to repair a rundown tennis court which he felt was preposterous. The recreational needs of communities are changing and he “gets it.”
That to me is amazing. Skateboarders have spent decades fighting for our right to have a place to practice our passion and in most cases, we are turned away be stogy faces who care not to understand but only to discriminate without listening. But that’s slowly changing with the help of leaders like John Callahan, Ralph Carp, Charlie Brown and Lorne Possinger. Leaders who take the time to understand and put their faith in the youth instead of brushing them aside as a lost generation.
Which is why WE ALL have to understand why it’s so important we don’t let them down. These people are gambling with their reputations that we will not act like the naysayers stereotype us to be. We need to continue to prove them wrong and use the skateplaza responsibly and respectfully. Live your life how you want, but when you set your board down in the plaza- please be aware your actions can affect our chances for further expansion and the ability for other skateparks/plazas to open. The haters want a chance to hate what we have.
Thank you to Mike Panic for the photos