Skate park in Okeechobee gave local skaters a safe haven

Posted 6/29/21

OKEECHOBEE- After nearly 20 years the Okeechobee County Skate Park located next to the Kiwanis Park near the Sheriff’s Office continues to serve a population of skate boarders and rollerbladers …

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Skate park in Okeechobee gave local skaters a safe haven

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OKEECHOBEE -- After nearly 20 years the Okeechobee County Skate Park located next to the Kiwanis Park near the Sheriff’s Office continues to serve a population of skate boarders and rollerbladers in the area that for many years had no place to go.


Before the skate park was available, the only options for kids who wanted to skate in Okeechobee were to get a ride to the coast, or skate on the sidewalks and parking lots of local businesses in the area. That latter option caused a lot of consternation for many members of the public in Okeechobee in the early 2000’s.


Business owners were understandably worried about damage to their property, while the Okeechobee City Council relied on imprecise language in the city’s bylaws as a reason to keep skateboards off their sidewalks.


This resulted in a lot of nuisance calls to police on local skateboarders from 2001 to 2003.
Retired Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Detective Brad Stark helped get the skate park project off the ground and remembers the reports of kids skating all over the county.


“Back at that time it seemed that every other week in the Speak Out in Okeechobee News there was someone saying there was nothing for kids to do,” said Stark. “And at that time they were skating all over the place and getting into all kinds of trouble. I’d be the first to admit that my son was one of them.”


“My brother, Tony, was the head of the contractors association and they had just sold a building. And they said they wanted to turn that money from the sale over into a project to try and help the kids.”


Brad went around to local schools and met with skateboarders to see what they wanted to have a in a skatepark, then helped draft up the designs.


The park was finally built in early 2004.


Over the years it has been refurbished and upgraded. In 2009 Tony Stark, John O’Connell, the Okeechobee Contractor’s Association, Okeechobee Parks and Recreation and Jakes’s Welding all donated their time to help repair the park, which had seen some wear and tear up to that point.


In 2018 the Okeechobee Parks and Recreation department worked with skate park designers Spohn Ranch along with the county’s own maintenance department to install all-new skate lite wood surfaces on all the ramps and made some minor structural repairs.


Estimates for that project put the cost at around $11,000.


Those repairs and updates to the ramps came after the Okeechobee County Board discussed performing a redesign and complete renovation of the park at the commissioners’ in 2017. Ultimately, the county commissioners decided to just repair the existing skate park. But as the 20 year anniversary of the park opening approaches, the eventual redesign and renovation of the skate park could still one day be on the horizon.

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