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Parks also put some green in Hernando's economy

Expensive, brightly colored trucks — the metal rigs that support a skateboard's wheels — were locked behind glass. All around were racks of maple boards or, to be precise, "decks" because skateboard is the name for the entire, assembled deal, which is not how real skateboarders like Mike Levesque tend to buy them.

And on Monday, Levesque watched a clerk put together his new board at the StreetStyle Skate Shop in Brooksville.

That's right, there's a skate shop in Brooksville, located — somewhat ironically, if you consider the sport's anti-authoritarian roots — not far from the Sheriff's Office on the State Road 50 truck bypass. So what if these roots were put down in 1970s Southern California? It's cool skateboarding finally made it to Brooksville.

We now have a place that sells products by companies with names like Dirty Ghetto Kids, a haven for kids with backward-facing ball caps and Vans.

Beside providing a little atmospheric lift, it's an economic one, too — an example on a small scale of how public investment in parks boosts private enterprise.

Owner Sean Cunningham, 38, says that skaters don't, strictly speaking, need Stewy's Skate Park in Spring Hill, and neither does his shop. And certainly, he said, promoting the business is not the reason his wife, Theresa, is forming a nonprofit organization to run Stewy's if the county closes it and four other parks to save money.

Fair enough. But remember the inspiration for Stewy's — Stewart Abramowicz, who died at age 12 in 2001 while riding in the street.

Parents generally don't buy equipment for sports that can get their children killed or charged with trespassing. If, on the other hand, Mom and Dad see kids having fun in a safe, encouraging and bustling place like Stewy's, they're more likely to spring for a $140 board like Levesque's.

"Before Stewy's, there was nothing for skaters around here," said Levesque's father, Keith, 45.

No, a skate shop won't pull us out of our economic pit. But it might help. So will a Dixie League baseball tournament scheduled for next month at Ernie Wever Youth Park north of Brooksville.

That means 225 players and coaches who, along with their friends and family members, should fill the county's hotels and, as my British wife would say, put a lot of bums on seats in a lot of restaurants.

There's potential for many more such tournaments, which, of course, won't come to Ernie Wever if the county closes it — one more reason to thank parents who are mobilizing to make sure this doesn't happen.

Lake Townsen Regional Park, also on the closure list, is a favorite for out-of-town horse riders who use it as a gateway to the Withlacoochee State Forest and, in the process, bring a lot of business to Hernando. A rider from Pasco County told me this in a recent e-mail. I checked her organization's website and, sure enough, the group is holding a ride there Saturday, followed by lunch at the Riverside Restaurant in Nobleton,

This, on the other hand, is what will happen if we don't pay to maintain parks: Property values fall, so does tax revenue and our ability to pay for other services that would make people want to move here.

That's not just failing to pull ourselves out of this hole; it's digging it deeper.

Parks also put some green in Hernando's economy 06/14/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 8:13pm]
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