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New park could keep skaters out of trouble
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Carlos Corona, 13, looks at new boards for sale Tuesday afternoon at Upper Deck skate shop in Main Street Market. Hall County has no facilities for skaters to use, but a skate park is in the works in the Cool Springs area.

The skaters of Hall County are more than ready for a place near home they can skateboard without getting in trouble.

Mary Paglia, owner of the Upper Deck Skate Shop in Gainesville, said she is excited to see local governments recognizing the growing need for a skate park.

Hall County is planning a skating facility in the Cool Springs park, a community center and park that will be built in West Hall.

"I think it’s a very progressive step and maybe it’s the first step," Paglia said. "There’s just not been any interest in Gainesville to accommodate skaters."

With no facilities, skaters often skate in shopping centers and on sidewalks — which gets them in trouble with not only property owners but with the law.

The Gainesville square is a popular spot for skaters.

Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper said there is a city ordinance against skating on sidewalks.

"It prohibits the use of coasters or roller skates, which skateboards would fall into that category, in crosswalks," Hooper said.

Hooper said the purpose of the ordinance is to improve safety for pedestrians and to prevent damage from skating on public property.

The police are also called if skaters are on private property.

"They can be charged with criminal trespass," Hooper said. "Most of the time they’re very cooperative when we ask them to leave."

Hooper said over the years he has seen skating rise and dip in popularity, but currently he sees a high number of skaters.

He said the Cool Springs facility will likely help fix some of the clashes between property owners and skaters.

"It would give folks a place to do this activity," Hooper said.

Hall County Parks and Leisure Director Greg Walker said he was a little surprised when he came to the county more than a year ago and realized there were no skating facilities.

"When I was first hired here that was one of the things we identified, that for the 11th largest county in the state of Georgia not to have that type facility, we weren’t meeting the needs of the skate community," Walker said. "I think the time’s come to really meet the needs of our public, and our public’s changed."

Walker said most larger counties in Georgia, including surrounding counties like Gwinnett, have popular skate parks.

"Every skate park that I’ve been to since we started this (Cool Springs) process has been very well-attended," Walker said.

Paglia said the majority of her customers are teenage boys.

"My youngest skater is 3 years old ... I have skaters that are 40. The bulk of them are 12 to 18." Paglia said. "It’s a big thing with the Hispanic community."

Paglia said skating provides teenagers with a productive activity that keeps them away from gangs and drugs.

"It teaches kids how to work with their boards, they learn how to use tools," Paglia said. "All they want to do is be around kids their own age and skateboard."

Cameron Sullens, 15, said his favorite thing about skating is the excitement.

"It’s the adrenaline rush and knowing you just landed something," Sullens said.

Though he has been injured attempting skate stunts before, Sullens said it’s "well worth" it because of the positive aspects of skating.

"After a while the fear goes away and you get used to it," Sullens said.

Gainesville Middle School student Luis Flores, 14, said he enjoys skateboarding because he can tell he improves over time.

"I want to keep trying my limit with skating," Flores said. "You keep going to a new level, everyday you improve."

Flores is anxious for the skate park to be built at Cool Springs.

"We get in trouble when we just want to have fun," he said.

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