Logansport Junior High students Erick Howard and Kiara DeInnocentes are getting an education that is beyond the classroom doors.
They are learning how to make public presentations, how to prepare and evaluate data from public questionnaires, how to work with business forms, and how to gain support from city departments.
All because the two 14-year-olds want a skate park in Logansport – and they’re willing to work hard to make it happen.
“We’ve been to Kokomo’s and Peru’s skate parks since we don’t have one here anymore,” said Erick, who thinks it’s time to change that circumstance. “It’s a big hobby for people now.”
Plus, he said, the sport lends itself to social distancing. And in this day and age, people need something to do outside, far away from television screens, where they can get some fresh air and exercise. “It’s a sport where you can work alone, so you don’t need to be on a team.”
“And you want to avoid each other” so collisions don’t happen and so people don’t topple over each other, said Kiara, adding that skateboarding could be done year-round, depending on weather. Snow, rain, or ice would be unacceptable because the water could cause a skateboarder to take a fall or the bearings to rust, but other than that, it would be a great activity for most any day of the week.
“For me, it’s a way to get away from it all,” said Erick. “I forget about all of the bad or upsetting things that are going on right now.”
“It is distracting,” his friend and business partner agreed. “It helps you clear your mind because you’re focusing on the sport, which is a sport that I can finally do. You don’t have to be strong, just coordinated.”
It was a skill Kiara picked up in the fifth grade. Her aunt, Patricia DeInnocentes-Thomas, who resides in Alabama, gave her a skateboard as a Christmas gift – and she hasn’t stopped learning new tricks ever since.
Kiara watches YouTube videos on techniques, stance, and procedures. Then, she will practice in her driveway or on the roadway near her house, but neither option provides enough space, ramps, or railings required for the sport.
Erick agreed, saying other than having to drive outside Cass County to access a park, he lacks sufficient space as well. And he wants to be able to practice as much as possible. After all, he said, he has surpassed techniques he learned as a 12-year-old when his younger brother, Levi, taught him some moves.
In fact, he has become the teacher, he said. He spends time explaining movements to Levi. But neither brother has a proper skate park to learn the new tricks they get from YouTube videos or their uncle, Tony Perez, who resides in Austin, Texas.
Recognizing Erick’s passion, Cory Howard, supports his son’s initiative. Remaining behind the scenes, he’s letting his son take the reins. He drives his son to meetings, and helps when needed, but Erick and Kiara are making the decisions.
And the duo are never lacking in aid. Along with Erick’s family, Kiara’s mother, Mary Ann, has assisted with documents and paperwork, while her science teacher, Laura Fred-Smith, helped her prepare documents for a survey summary and offered tips on how to speak in front of the Logansport Parks Department board.
The tips must have paid off because Parks Administrator Jan Fawley has decided to pursue the teens’ request.
“I was happy to have them there because it takes the public to say what they need,” said Jan. “I know trends in other communities, but until someone says that we need a skate park, there isn’t any motivation to do it. It’s important for people to say what they want.”
Built in 2003, the $68,000 Riverside Skate Park was well used, but when it was allowed to be moved to a different location, the equipment fell apart and “there was never a way to put it back together, so it had to be removed. It was no longer safe,” Jan said, adding with a chuckle that between the dog park and this new skate park plan, she will be putting her grant-writing abilities to serious work.
“If it’s something the community really wants, they’re going to help us come up with the money to do it,” she said, adding that she has contacted Bloomington-based Hunger Skateparks, a skate board park design and building business, about the project. She hopes to work with the group in designing a layout.
Currently, though, Erick and Kiara are taking surveys to determine how many people would like a skate park in Logansport, and where one would be best suited.
Likewise, Jan will be working with city employees to gather their own survey details. Then, all parties will combine their results so they can “sit down and share ideas with people to find out what they need,” she said. “I’m excited that they’re involved. I appreciate their motivation and willingness to work for what they want.”
To follow Erick and Kiara’s progress, visit their Instagram site at https://www.instagram.com/logansportskatepark/.