A student-led initiative to expand park facilities for community use is gaining momentum.

In January, a group of Waxahachie Global High School students —Pete Gann, Dustin Koch, Beto Hernandez, Blake Bryan, Kenneth Cox and Alex White — made a presentation to the Waxahachie city officials seeking to enlist the city’s support in the creation of a skate park for the community’s youth.

What began as a small group of students with an idea and a desire to make a difference has turned into a community wide project that has expanded to include the Waxahachie Rotary Club, area businesses and students throughout the city of Waxahachie.

On Thursday of last week, a community meeting was held at Waxahachie Global High with city officials and business leaders working with the students to help improve the quality of life for city residents.

“There are not too many places around town where we’re allowed to skate. The park will keep kids out of trouble and give them something to do,” said Daniel Cantu, a student at Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy who has practiced skateboarding since he was in fifth grade.

In his remarks during Thursday’s presentation, he stressed the park will “keep kids out of trouble and give them something to do.”

In addition to outlining the need for a skate park, students also shared research on what other communities have done to develop safe places for recreational skating.

Global High student Blake Bryan and WNGA student Jake Oas led a Power Point presentation with slides and information of other public and private parks that can be used as examples in planning for a Waxahachie skate park.

“Waxahachie needs something like this,” said J.D. Luckau, a parent and Waxahachie business owner. “We have a lot of youth that would benefit from a skate park.”

“(A skate park) would get kids out and away from their computers and video games and get them to exercise,” said Luckau, who owns Elf Boot and Shoe Repair in Waxahachie. “It can be an attractive place — not just a concrete jungle. It can have greenery, stairs, benches and rails.”

“Sounds like it could have multiple uses, too,” added city of Waxahachie park planner Clyde Melick, of the students’ proposed park facility.

The discussion included suggestions as to what should be included in a skate park for Waxahachie.

Gann, one of the intial students who spoke before the city in January, said that many peers would like a park that appeals to the street-like skating most of the students are used to.

“Most skaters would like a street-style park instead of a park with ramps and bowls,” Gann added.

Other students agreed, requesting the park include “stairs, gaps and things to grind, — things you’d see on the street.”

WNGA student Jordan Guinn said he was at the meeting to represent those who rollerblade, in particular.

Others pointed out that a skate park would incorporate all the elements popular with skaters in one place — rather than several locations all over town. Plus, they all pointed out, the skaters could practice their stunts legally, without breaking any city ordinances or rules of local businesses.

Guinn added that currently it is a challenge for students to find places to skate without getting into trouble.

Some of the students explained that there are some local parking lots where the business owners “don’t care if we skate” or have given them permission to skate in the parking lot and around the buildings. But the overwhelming majority of students at Thursday’s meeting shared stories of how many businesses have run the skaters off their property.

Advisory panel

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During Thursday’s initial gathering, the establishment of an advisory committee was recommended, with students, business leaders and city officials included in the panel.

Rotary Club representative Alex B. Smith announced the Rotary Club’s support of the project.

With the Rotary Club’s recent involvement in helping move the Waxahachie Senior Citizens building project from “a dream” to now in the actual construction phase, Smith said it was important to get diverse representation on the advisory community and build a strong base of community support.

He suggested working with the city in a joint public-private partnership, with the students contributing to the costs of the skate park through fund-raising initiatives.

“If you guys are willing to commit to that, we’re willing to work with you,” Alex B. Smith added.

Waxahachie Parks and Recreation director John Smith commended the students for their initiative and the hard work they have put in to the project and their leadership in wanting to improve the city.

That said, John Smith informed the students not to expect immediate results.

“It’s a slow … could be a long, drawn-out process. You may be in for something that could take a long time, but don’t give up,” he said.

Luckau also pledged the support of his business, which includes a shop for skaters inside his Northgate Plaza location. He encouraged any member of the community to stop by during business hours or give him a call 972-938-7979 to enlist their support in helping the students’ vision become a reality.

Next meeting April 10

The next organizational meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10 in the auditorium of Waxahachie Global High. All in the community interested in the project are encouraged to attend.

 “An expected outcome of this process – besides a skate park, of course – is to develop young leadership talent. A lot of the students have natural leadership abilities and this kind of process helps bring it to light,” Alex B. Smith said.

Global High Headmaster Portia Butler also commended the students for their willingness to get involved.

“We commend them  …for doing something that is not just for them, but for the community,” Butler said, pointing out that the “students did this,” referring to organizing the meeting and creating a campaign with the goal of gaining a local skate park.

E-mail Jennifer at jennifer.howell@wninews.com