Many community members have said Hillsboro lacks activities and places for local youth to spend free time, leading some to ponder possible solutions.
The prospect of a local skate park has piqued the interest of several local officials, and there seems to be some support from the younger community on the matter, but local skater Pietro Cartaino said only time will tell.
The idea has been discussed in Hillsboro City Council and its Street and Safety Committee, and Cartaino said he would be willing to help spearhead the project.
Cartaino, a 25-year-old Hillsboro resident, met Friday with The Times-Gazette at the site of the proposed skate park – the old tennis courts at the city park on Railroad Avenue.
Cartaino, who has been skating since 1999, said the surface of the tennis courts would have to be cleaned and repaved before anything can be done, but he said the area’s size shows promise.
“We’ve got a lot of potential,” he said. “I think a skate park would really benefit the community.”
Cartaino said he’s experienced some prejudice based on his looks alone, with his long hair and tattoos drawing some suspicious looks at times, and he acknowledged there is a certain stereotype surrounding some aspects of the skateboarding culture, although he said he hopes that won’t affect the community’s support for a local skate park.
Interim Hillsboro Police Chief Steve Browder and Cartaino agreed the city should consider measures to limit illicit activity in the area, since some informal skate parks here in the past have been a drain on police resources.
Browder vouched for Cartaino at a recent meeting of Hillsboro City Council’s Street and Safety Committee, saying he’s known Cartaino for years as “one of the good kids,” although not all skateboarders fit that description.
Cartaino said he hopes he can be somewhat of a role model for younger members of the skateboarding community, and encourage them to behave well while having fun.
Cartaino said he’s lost a number of friends to drugs and other illegal activity, some of whom have ended up in prison, and others who have ended up dead.
“You lose so many people, it gets kind of sickening, man,” he said.
Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings told The Times-Gazette he’s been looking into the idea for some time, and is happy to see the idea gaining some traction.
“There’s very little for young people to do around here,” Hastings said, “unless you want to be involved in organized sports. And not everybody wants to be in organized sports… The skate park, frankly, I thought there wouldn’t be a great deal of interest in it.”
Hastings said he conducted an informal poll at Hillsboro High School about two years ago, and the skate park seemed to be a popular idea among the students.
“It turned out the skate park ranked up there near the top,” Hastings said. “I was surprised, but I was glad to see it. And the fact that I have heard so many kids and their parents drive them up to Wilmington to the skate park tells me there’s a definite demand for it.”
Council member and Street and Safety Committee chair Justin Harsha, who has been outspoken about the need for a skate park, said the idea is special to him for a number of reasons.
“This is kind of one of those areas where there’s just not a lot for kids to do,” Harsha said. “I grew up riding bikes and skateboards, and this is just one of the first projects I’ve been involved in where I think I can make a difference and keep kids out of trouble… It’s a big problem, not having things for the kids to do.”
Harsha said activities like laser tag, bowling and going out to eat all cost money, and a skate park would cater to a larger group of young people who may not have money to spend. Cartaino agreed.
“Kids’ parents can’t afford to give them money to go do whatever every day,” Cartaino said. “I work a lot now, but in my free time, if I’m not skating, I work on vehicles and stuff like that. It’s fun, but again, that’s work, and not everybody has a fun time with work… There really isn’t that much for kids to mess around with.”
Hillsboro High School students and fraternal twins Taylor and Ashley Chaney were in agreement that there don’t seem to be enough activities for local youth in Hillsboro, and it’s causing problems.
“That’s why people go out and party, because there’s nothing else to do,” said Ashley Chaney.
The twins, who are both baristas at Holtfield Coffee Station, said they’ve noticed many local young people often come to Holtfield to drink coffee and hang out, but other than that, options seem to be limited.
Taylor Chaney said she’s glad Hillsboro has its own arcade and laser tag arena, as well as a bowling alley, “but do you really think high school students will go and do that every day?”
“How many times can you go out before it gets boring?” Ashley Chaney asked.
The twins were somewhat indifferent to the idea of a skate park in Hillsboro, but said bringing cruising back to town would be a good idea.
“If cruising started again, police officers can patrol the area, and kids aren’t going to be out doing drugs and alcohol because they’ll just be cruising around,” said Ashley Chaney.
Hastings said among other ideas for activities for local youth, he explored creating an ice rink for the city park, but “I couldn’t drum up enough support for that.”
“And the skate park idea didn’t get any real serious consideration until just recently,” Hastings said, “but I’m really glad to see it happening.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.