Semaj Harris put a tentative right foot on the front of his loaner skateboard on Tuesday, pushed off the ground with his left and took off across the 6,200-square-foot new skate spot in Valley Park off Cambridge Drive in Lexington.
Semaj, 12, was one of more than a dozen kids who participated in a free two-day skate clinic that began Tuesday to coincide with the grand opening of Lexington’s latest skate spot.
Logan Sharp, from Cosmic skate shop, was impressed with Harris and two other kids under Sharp’s tutelage. Sharp and two other employees of Cosmic were teaching the clinic.
“You can start with either right foot on the front or your left foot,” Sharp explained. “It really doesn’t matter which one. It’s whatever you’re comfortable with.”
Councilwoman Peggy Henson, who represents the Valley Park area, spearheaded the building of the small skate park after a teen approached her two years ago and asked for a place to skate. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department built the $50,000 park with input from Friends for SkateParks, a local nonprofit that has advocated for new skating spots around the city. It was completed late last fall but Tuesday was its official grand opening.
At a ceremony before the Tuesday clinic, Henson said Valley Park has long been the hub and play area for kids in the Cambridge Drive area. It’s one of the city’s busiest parks. But parks must change to meet the needs and tastes of the people and kids who use them, Henson said.
Active kids are safe kids, Henson said.
“I think it’s really, really important that to curb violence, we invest in our children,” Henson said.
Carol Perkins, who is on the Cardinal Valley Park Activity Board, agreed. Perkins moved to the area in 1964. She and her brothers made friends by playing sports in Valley Park. Her kids also made friends there, Perkins said. It’s more than just a place to play — it’s the center of a diverse community.
“That’s why we have the best park in town,” Perkins said.
The Valley Skate spot is the second skate park to be built in Lexington’s parks in the past two years. Berry Hill Skate park, the city’s largest skate park, opened in November 2015. The 18,000-square-foot park is located off of Buckhorn Drive. Woodland Skate park has been open since the early 2000s. Kirklevington Park on Redding Road has a much smaller skate pad, similar to Valley Park.
The park is designed for those new to the sport but still has elements that provide challenges to intermediate and advanced skate boarders, said Roderick Saylor, president of the Friends for Skateparks.
“We are encouraging the city to build more smaller parks in neighborhood parks,” Saylor said. “Berry Hill is a destination park. People come from other cities to skate there.”
The two-day skate clinic was sponsored by the Friends and Cosmic skate shop. After the two-day clinic, participants will be entered in a drawing for 35 free skate boards and helmets. It’s part of the Adopt A Park program. That program teams the city’s Partners for Youth, its young employment program, with various partners to provide free youth programming in Valley Park in June and July.
The Adopt A Park program is now in its third year.
Despite Tuesday’s high temperatures, Semaj took to Tuesday’s lessons. He stayed on the board. He might stick with skateboarding, he said.
“I tried it before but I fell off,” he said, laughing.