West Valley Skate Park: You Can’t Fight City Hall

The other day, while I was motivating my old, fat ass to get on the treadmill in my spare bedroom, I decided to watch a classic skate video from 1995. The video was called Donut Duty and there were several skits in the video involving these fake cops who go around the city, busting skaters doing their thing. One skit in particular stood out, though. It showed the cops giving the skaters a stern talking to about wasting taxpayer dollars and how they are destroying the city (particularly a wooden bench).

A lot has changed since 1995. In 1995, Utah didn't have any public skateparks. In 1995, I didn't even know what a public skatepark was. Now, the same taxpayer, whose dollars were being wasted by the guys sessioning a wooden bench, are actually paying to build places for us to skate.

Around came the latter half of the 1990s, and all of a sudden Farmington had a park. Then Grantsville got a park. After that, Cedar City got one. Skateparks started to pop up all over the place. The strange thing was, most of the early parks were in small towns. Seriously, do any of you know where Grantsville or Cedar City is?

Now it's 2008. Utah has a ton of skateparks and a lot of them are in the Salt Lake Valley. Most of the big cities have them, but the state still lacks one in its second largest city: West Valley City.

The city decided a few years ago to develop a skatepark, but backed out after talking to Taylorsville City who warned that it would be the worst mistake they ever made. Just like the fake cops in the video said, it would be a waste of taxpayers' dollars and a waste of time.

This year that all changed. After finishing her associate's degree at Salt Lake Community College, Jennifer Braunersrither decided to take a semester off from school to do something for her community. "I grew up in West Valley City and wanted to give something back to it," she says. She looked around West Valley City and noticed there was no skatepark. A lot of Braunersrither's friends were skateboarders. So, she took it upon herself to devise a plan to get a skatepark built in WVC.

When Braunersrither was still in Elementary School a kid at her school died from a head injury when he was skating at City Hall. "I thought to myself, if he had just had a designated place to skate, he might still be alive today," she said. Because of this story, she adopted the slogan, "If the city doesn't have a skatepark, the whole city becomes a skatepark."

Braunersrither teamed up with local WVC skateboarders Yokchi Chang, Eric Gepkens and Chad Ninou to lobby for a skatepark. Working closely with locals, she was able to see what was really needed and wanted by skateboarders in West Valley. Braunersrither and her team spent time going to every skatepark in the valley, as well as a lot of legitimate street spots, to film a video to help their cause. They spent time interviewing kids at these parks to demonstrate how the parks have given them something positive to do and to voice their opinions on whether or not West Valley should have a park. Chang worked hard to film and edit the video. His final edit of the video came across as ambitious and overwhelmingly professional.

Lobbying for a skatepark is a lot of work. If anyone wants to see it done right, they should observe the example set by Braunersrither and her friends. The process moved along rather quick, as Jenn had been working on it for only a few months. The city applauded their efforts and tended to support their ideas. The major issue with building a skatepark was liability. Everyone is so concerned about lawsuit-happy America that they do stupid things like build 18-inch-tall parks (thanks Orange County) and hire the local bitter retired security guard to "pad nanny" your local shred spot. The city lawyer for West Valley City was very supportive of the park and argued that liability was not any more an issue than it would be for a basketball court or a playground (ever notice how messed up the NBA guys get? They're injured more often than Danny Way).

The mayor of the city said he had made a promise to build a skatepark five years ago and planned on keeping that promise. There were issues as to possible locations for the skatepark. The city does not want to locate it somewhere with a rising property cost or too near to the Taylorsville skatepark. Though West Valley City may soon have the park Braunersrither has spent the last few months fighting for, the struggle isn't over yet. I don't know if you realize it, but people hate on you just because you skate. If you would like to help with the fight to get a skatepark in West Valley or sign the petition, you can contact Jenn at: jensta360@hotmail.com.