OPINION: Meriden wants to build a skate park

Once when I was working on a story about Yalesville Little League and spending a lot of time hanging out around the fields behind Parker Farms School, somebody in the know — a former coach, I think — told me that sandlot games still took place there. I took that to mean that if I just invested enough time I’d eventually be able to witness a baseball game of that nature.

Alas, I didn’t have the time to invest, so I can’t tell you for certain if that kind of game indeed was still going on, though it’s nice to think so.

Sandlot generally refers to games that are not organized, particularly those not organized by grownups. It involves kids getting together on their own to play, without prodding. There was a time when this was very common.

You’re tempted to think there was something advantageous about kids working things out on their own and not having an adult around all the time telling them what to do. That’s how you learn to get along, for one thing. But organized sports tend to dominate.

There may be nothing more satisfactory in the realm of youthful achievement than winning a state championship in high school football, which is what just happened for Maloney High School. It’s the first state football championship ever for the school, and the first state football championship ever for the City of Meriden.

All the things you associate with the benefits of scholastic sports come into play: the teamwork, the camaraderie, the rewards of giving it your all. Every time somebody starts talking about scaling back school sports hordes of parents make themselves available to point out these advantages.

But one of the things I found encouraging was that amid Maloney’s great gridiron achievement the Meriden City Council was also thinking about skate board parks.

Meriden is not alone, of course, plenty of municipalities recognize the desirability of providing these venues. But I like the grass-rootsy aspect of it all; that this is something people want to do, in this case young people, and the city is responding by providing opportunity.

It got me thinking of sandlot baseball. They’re not the same, of course, sandlot and skate parks, but they share a generally impromptu nature and the sense of doing things simply for the joy of doing them.

There was a skate park in Meriden near Platt High School, but that got eliminated when the school was rebuilt in 2014.

Now the city is searching for someone to build a skate park that would be semi-permanent at City Park, and a park that would be permanent at the former Factory H site. They’re even going to set up a Skate Park Advisory Team. City councilors would be on that team, as well as other city leaders and members of the community.

There was a lot encouraging in Mary Ellen Godin’s R-J report, but this observation by Council Majority Leader Sonya Jelks stood out: “One of the areas we struggle with is youth opportunities in town. There is a focus on sports, activities that center around school times. But in the summer, there should be some opportunities for our youth to get exercise and be outdoors.”

Very savvy, and there’s nothing exclusionary about this. Can you say “go Spartans!” and “hello skate park” in the same breath? Of course.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.




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