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It's time to 'turn on' the new skate park

Mar 15, 2016 By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

Sunday afternoon, when my car's thermometer said the temperature was 61 degrees, I wondered where the kids were.

At spacious Rein Park, there was a man working with his dog, and a family trying to fly a kite in the gentle breeze.

A half-dozen kids were at Ashgrove School playing full-court basketball, one teen with his shirt off seemingly encouraging the almost-spring day to get just a bit warmer.

On the pitch at Wolverine Field, two athletes were getting ready for the coming soccer season, and there was one pickup parked in the parking lot at the Babe Ruth Park, but the field was idle when I sauntered by.

At Jaycee Park there were eight cars in the parking lot, with kids playing on the playground, and a couple families, it seemed, enjoying a picnic.

Just past the empty softball fields on Smith Road, at the Ron Saban Little League Complex, one dad was helping his kids learn to put the bat on the ball on one field, and one other family was preparing for the upcoming baseball season on another field.

Teter Park had no takers early Sunday afternoon when I drove by the park that was closest to my early childhood home on Elk Drive.

Sunset Park was nearly empty.

There were about 100 people Sunday afternoon at the school-subsidized Riverton Aquatic Center.

But the outdoor action was at City Park. It seems odd, but really, really good, to write that.

My unofficial count saw 41 kids, mostly teens, at the beautiful new skate park, socializing, exercising and playing together on their skateboards and bikes.

The decision by the City of Riverton to locate the new skate park in the middle of City Park, far away from the "zombie fence" surrounding the old skate park, was brilliant. The skate park is a distant walk from loiterers in the parking lot in the northeast corner of the park. Kids are flocking to the new skate park for all to see at the intersection of Federal Boulevard and East Main Street.

How refreshing is that?

At Tuesday night's Riverton City Council meeting, plans will be set in place, fittingly, to name the new recreation gem in City Park after Tyler Ray Apodaca, a great BMX rider while a Riverton youth. His life was cut far short because of a dreadful disease. Naming the park for him is a deserved honor.

The council has an opportunity to make another important decision, which is to "turn on" the skate park with nighttime lighting, much like the community turned on Tonkin Stadium years ago.

The Central Wyoming Skateboarding Association again is raising money, this time to purchase an ultra-efficient, LED lighting system which will cost pennies per day to operate.

Pennies per day? Yes. The 1,680-watt, engineered, approved light system will cost the city a whopping $16 per month in the summer, or less, to turn on three hours or so per night.

Think of it this way. In summer and early fall, when the weather in central Wyoming invites outside activity, why not provide lights to allow evening recreation for a group of teenagers? If the kids aren't out at the skate park, you have to wonder where else they will be and what else they might be doing.

The Riverton City Council ought to approve the lighting plan and pay the pennies to have the lights come on at sunset and click off at a predetermined time during the warm days. And the best news? That system can be easily automated.

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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