Guest Commentary: Skateboarding community deserves park in Dover


Dennis Broomell II is an advocate for the Delaware Skatepark Alliance.

If you would have told me as a kid, when I started skateboarding, that, at the age of 35, I would still be skateboarding, I would’ve called you a liar. However, here I am, 22 years later (with time off due to injuries) still doing it, and my love for skateboarding has only grown stronger.

I’ve watched skate parks come and go over the years, which is a heartbreaking sight to behold. However, the reverse is true. The birth of a skate park is like the birth of a child in the eyes of the skateboard community.

You’re probably wondering at this point, where I am going with this? So let me start at the beginning.

If you live in the Dover area, there are no legal skate spots unless you go to Smyrna Skatepark in the north or Skate Epworth in Rehoboth Beach. Skate Epworth is a great skate park; however, it is a bit of a drive from Dover. Smyrna Skatepark is old and in need of updating, as well as repaving.

In the skateboard community, it has always been rumored that, as far back as 1993, skateboarders were advocating for a skate park in Dover. However, I could not find any evidence of this. I was told that the first time was in 2009 by other skateboarders, and again, I could not find any evidence of this.

In August of 2019 is the first evidence I can find that the skateboard community went to the Dover City Council and began officially advocating for a legitimate skate park. On Aug. 18, 2019, it was announced that Dover was “on board with skate park” in the Delaware State News, and to my surprise, my picture was front and center under the headline ONLINE?.

Now, it is 2023, and Dover officials have said that the skate park has been pushed back to fiscal year 2025. According to Parks & Recreation, this means the park will not break ground until the later part of 2024, as the fiscal year starts in July of 2024 for the year 2025.

So why are skateboarders angry about this?   

Skateboarding has been stigmatized as a delinquent and obnoxious activity that only attracts young kids and criminals. Skateboarding is more than just jumping down stair sets, sliding down rails and sometimes annoying pedestrians, security guards and local police. In a study completed in 2009 by The Skatepark Project, 102 police officers in 37 states were surveyed, and the findings were: Ninety percent stated that skate parks were an asset to the community, 85% stated that there was an overall decrease in complaints related to skateboarding due to a skate park being built, 91% reported little to no negative behavior at the skate park, 47% reported a reduction in overall youth crime, 40% reported improved relations between youth and police, and 15% reported an increase in overall tourism (The Skatepark Project, 2009).

In my overall opinion, it’s safe to assume that skate parks are safe places for the community and help reduce the stigmatization that skateboarders receive. Also, skateboarders are known for their connection with punk rock and the do-it-yourself movement; this means that skateboarders will bring business to small businesses around Dover.

Do you need more evidence that a skate park is good for the community?

Let me ask you something: What is one place a person can go and feel safe, as well as free of judgment? If you said the skate park, you would be correct. In another study, conducted in 2019, it concluded that skateboarders felt safe at the skate park, that they would go there to meet friends and have a place of support (Corwin, et al., 2019). I find a skate park to be the only place where people do not care about race, religion, ethnicity, gender and/or sexuality. We are all there for the same purpose, which is to learn and improve. We support and teach one another. This is what a true community looks like. It is all-inclusive.

Skateboarding is also about skill building. In the same 2019 study previously mentioned, skateboarders identified that they felt as though they learned to stick with a challenge, learned to think outside the box and learned how to solve complex problems (Corwin, et al., 2019). These are important skills to develop at a young age and can help you become a more efficient adult.

It is important to feel a part of something bigger when you are a teen struggling with growing up. Skateboarding gave me a place where the outside world didn’t matter, and it became a part of my self-care. This is true for millions skateboarders in the world.

Dover has an opportunity to do something no other city in Delaware has done. They can put the skateboard community first, a minority community compromised of people from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Dover has the opportunity to provide local businesses with more revenue because of inviting skateboarders, because skateboarders love small businesses because of the do-it-yourself aspect. Dover has the opportunity to increase tourism because of a skate park; skateboarders will come from surrounding states just to skate the next best skate park. Finally, Dover has the opportunity to back up their commitment to the skateboard community by keeping their word and building the skate park that the Dover community deserves.

Who knows? Maybe Dover will provide the United States Olympic skateboard team with their first gold medalist.

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