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Town 'N Country teenagers start petition for skate park

TOWN 'N COUNTRY — It took Mathew Jeffries only two weeks to learn how to skateboard.

He watched his friends zip around on their boards, and he learned tricks from videos posted on YouTube.

But it also didn't take long for him to realize that there aren't many places to skate near his home in Town 'N Country.

Jeffries is one of a dozen or so teenagers teaming up with the Florida Institute for Community Studies to get a local skate park, which would let the young skaters avoid trespass warnings.

"If we're skating somewhere and people don't want us to skate there, they're calling the cops," said Jeffries, 14. "We're running out of places to skate."

So the teens started a petition.

There are nearly 300 signatures so far. The kids are aiming for 15,000.

"They're breaking into the schools to skateboard because they have nowhere else to go," said Alayne Unterberger, executive director of the Florida Institute for Community Studies, a grass-roots, community-based research and services program with offices in Town 'N Country and Ruskin.

Unterberger said some of the teenagers were starting to skate in the parking lot of the institute on Hanley Road because they knew they wouldn't get kicked out. Unterberger is the one who suggested a petition.

She said she plans to talk to Hillsborough County commissioners about the possibility of a skate park in Town 'N Country and hopes to show the petition to Commissioner Sandra Murman at a library event March 2.

Murman could not be reached early this week for comment.

"They're doing things that are not necessarily safe right now," Unterberger said. "It's not their fault they don't have a safe place, but let's work toward getting them a safe place."

The county is building skate parks in at least two other areas of Hillsborough.

Skate parks at 5720 Providence Road in Brandon and 664 Golf and Sea Blvd. in Apollo Beach are expected to be finished by late March and have grand openings in April.

But both are miles away from the North Tampa youths now skating in parking lots and an abandoned car dealership lot. They can go to Skatepark of Tampa, but it's on E Columbus Drive, nearly 15 miles away from their neighborhood.

"It's fun and better to get around places without walking." Jeffries said of skateboarding. "When you're going fast, you feel the wind in your face."

Jeffries said he pictures a park with ramps and staircases and with vending machines.

"If they build a skate park, I'd be so happy," he said. "I'd get a board and skate every day."

Jeffries' friend Denzil Boylan has three skateboards, all varying in weight and size for different tricks and moves. He's been skating every day for two months.

"It's fun, exciting and dangerous," Boylan, 13, said.

Ileana Morales can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

If you go

The Florida Institute for Community Studies, 6704 Hanley Road, will host a community meeting at 4 p.m. Friday to discuss building a skate park in Town 'N Country. For more information, call (813) 249-8100.

The petition can be seen at www.change.org/petitions/we-need-a-place-to-skate.

Town 'N Country teenagers start petition for skate park 02/23/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 23, 2012 3:30am]
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