Back in the “Dogtown and Z-Boys” era of the 1970s, skateboarding had an illicit reputation, especially since most skaters were doing their grinds and kickflips on benches, sidewalks and empty swimming pools.
Even municipalities that wanted to build skate parks found the insurance costs were prohibitive. (At one point, they were $60,000 a year, according to the Skate Park Association of the USA.)
But as a generation of skaters put away their boards and took up office jobs at city halls — and especially at insurance companies — minds began to change. Though skateboarders do get injured, most of the time it’s just a sprain, and the most serious injuries came from being hit by a car, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Skateboarders routinely argue that the sport is safer than football.
And here’s the twist: Skate parks are now seen as a way to reduce crime. All those skateboarders hanging out are extra sets of eyes that discourage thefts and assaults. (Portland, Ore., began putting them under bridges and other crime hotspots.)
All this makes Hyattsville’s new skateboarding site at Melrose Park along Route 1 near the Anacostia River a smart bet. Since the only other skate parks in Prince George’s County are in Bowie and Greenbelt, it’s sure to be a draw, and recent visits showed the park was being well-used already.