A new skatepark is being considered as part of Providence’s Parks, Trails and Recreation Master Plan after a local youth gathered an estimated 500 petition signatures.
For eighth-grader Abran Soto, the idea for a skatepark in Providence came in part from the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of access to similar recreation in the south end of Cache Valley.
“I have been scootering for a long time, and me and my friends actually just started skateboarding,” Abran said. “We thought it’d be kind of cool to have a skatepark in Providence.”
“We don’t have anything on this end of the valley,” said Amy Soto, Abran’s mom. “In the age of the pandemic, we don’t have anything in the south end of the valley where teenagers can go and congregate and hang out.”
Without a skatepark near Hyrum, Nibley or Providence, Amy said kids who can’t drive themselves are often unable to access the skateparks in Logan and Smithfield. And kids can land themselves in hot water for riding a skateboard or scooter in areas not specifically designated for those activities.
“You’re bound to get in trouble,” Amy said. “That’s where the beauty of skateparks come from.”
In November, the Sotos began gathering signatures at local stores, skate shops and schools to show a skatepark would be well supported by the community. They quickly garnered support, they said, gathering an estimated 500 signatures in four hours of work.
“There were some kids that were so excited,” Amy said. “I think it’s encouraging to see the excitement this drummed up. I mean, girls and guys alike were both super excited at the thought of a skatepark in Providence.”
After bringing the signatures to Providence, city officials included the idea of a skatepark in their first-ever Parks, Trails and Recreation Master Plan. The plan is currently open for feedback from citizens until Jan. 4.
“We’re in the process of trying to figure out plans for all the parks in Providence for the next five to 15 years,” said City Manager Ryan Snow. “We’ve had a lot of different public input in trying to find out what potential there is to do a lot of different things — so whether that’s pickleball or Wiffle Ball or a skatepark or walking trails throughout the city.”
Snow said once the City Council adopts the master plan, which has not yet happened, they will begin prioritizing and pursuing recreation projects. For Snow, public interest dictates what projects the city will ultimately pursue.
“In our initial survey, (skateparks) didn’t come up much. We have since had some good interest, which is always helpful,” Snow said. “We want to do what the public wants.”
City Council Member Carrie Kirk also said the city is interested in looking into projects that amass public support.
“We want to hear from anyone who is interested in giving feedback,” Kirk said. “These kids have been really excited about the skatepark and gathered names and we want to do with our funds what people will use.”
For Kirk, various hurdles remain for the project including funding, property and location.
“Of course, liability is a concern and just the reputation of skateparks in general,” Kirk said, explaining that building the skatepark in a highly visible area can thwart “bad behavior” while burgeoning community support. “I do know that I want it near a high-trafficked area so there’s lots of eyes on it.”
For the master plan as a whole, Kirk said part of her goal is to preserve undeveloped land — which was part of her platform when she ran for office.
“I feel like we need to preserve some open space for the future,” Kirk said. “When it’s developed, it’s over.”
The Sotos said they were thrilled their efforts were successful while acknowledging a long way yet to go.
“We are over the moon and so excited,” Amy said. “This means we can hopefully continue step by step to help move this forward.”
For Abran, skateboarding is about progression and a positive influence.
“It’s just a fun thing to learn,” Abran said. “There’s always new tricks you can learn and it’s a good way to spend your time.”
Though the popularity of skateboarding has waxed and waned over the years, Amy said since growing up in the ‘90s she’s never seen skateboarding completely fade away.
“Skateboarders have never gone away — there have always been skateboarders,” Amy said.
There are three public skateparks in Cache Valley: One opened in Logan in 2001, in Preston in 2003, and in Smithfield in 2018.
For more information or to submit comments on the Providence Master Plan, visit providencecity.com/2020/12/08/we-are-seeking-your-input-on-our-new-parks-trails-and-recreation-master-plan.