Families enjoy Okeechobee County Skate Park

OKEECHOBEE – Last year, the Okeechobee County Parks and Recreation Department reopened the skate park at Kiwanis Park after it had been closed down for several months. The county spent an estimated $11,000 to $13,000 installing all new skate lite wood surfaces on all the ramps inside the park and made some minor structural repairs, and it appears that investment has paid off for local residents in Okeechobee.

Okeechobee local Stephanie Fowler said her son McKinley began riding his scooter in the park earlier this year and they’ve been impressed with not only the park itself but the positive interactions they’ve had with other skaters.

“All the kids and teenagers we’ve ran into here have been so polite and so respectful,” said Mrs. Fowler.

“The park looks great, I think partly because the kids do such a good job with keeping it clean. I think sometimes teenagers get a bad rap, but every one of the skateboarders we’ve met here have been so positive.”

Stephanie’s husband, Kinney Fowler, echoed his wife’s statements about the park and the atmosphere created by the local skating community in Okeechobee.
Mrs. Fowler says that McKinley, who is 4 years old, saw the skate park while at the playground in Kiwanis Park and was fascinated by it.

“He watches a lot of the American Ninja Warrior Junior, and I think the park reminded him of that, so he wanted go over and play on it,” explained Mrs. Fowler.

Once they were at the park, another child let McKinley borrow his scooter so he could ride around on the smaller ramps. It wasn’t long before McKinley had a scooter of his own and the Fowlers were making multiple trips to the skate park.

The updates to the ramps and repairs to the park last year came after the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners discussed performing a full redesign and renovation at their September meeting in 2017. Ultimately, the county commissioners decided to repair the existing skate park by installing the new skate lite wood surfaces on the multiple ramps and skating structures.

But Okeechobee County Parks and Recreation community services director Albert Scoggins says an eventual redesign and renovation of the skate park is still on the horizon.

“As we go into our budget, we’re looking at placing a skate park renovation into our capital improvement plan,” said Mr. Scoggins. “We haven’t decided if that’ll be year two, three or five of the plan. But it will be in there for the upcoming budget. Once it’s in there, it’ll be a question of what we want to build and how do we want to build it. I think we’ll do it the same way we did the wooden jungle, in that we’ll probably have a design day with a company where skaters as well as others could come out and help sketch out and discuss the features that are appealing to them. I think one of the nicer features of a skate park is a bowl, so I imagine the new park will have a bowl in there. There’s lots of options.”

If a new park is eventually built, Mrs. Fowler thinks it’ll be a good investment for the youth in Okeechobee.

“It’s good for the community,” Mrs. Fowler said. “It’s a great place for kids to hang out in a safe environment and do something that’s physically active and productive. And the kids take responsibility for it, they take care of it.”

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

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