Shred the town: Skateboarders request light system

By Cameron Krasucki, Photo Editor

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  • Natalie Declerck performs a “frontside 180” at the Spalding Park Skatepark on Nov. 6.

  • James Scherer grills for his fellow skateboarders on Nov. 6.

  • Royal Small, a San Bernardino native who now lives in Rantoul, jumps a ramp at the Spalding Park Skatepark on Nov. 6.

  • Josh Dudson glides around the bowl at the Spalding Park Skatepark on Nov. 6.

  • Three skateboarders watch Dudson land a jump on Nov. 6.

  • Joel Melchi flies through the air after coming off a ramp on Nov. 6.

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Skateboarders around Champaign-Urbana said the community represents a makeshift family. Brought together by their admiration for skating, the skaters say they remain close despite their age gaps and varying levels of expertise.  

Spalding Park Skatepark contains a mixture of ramps, bowls, handrails and a small pump track. It resembles a graffiti-filled playground where the skateboarders can assess and develop their skills. From dawn until dusk, passersby can hear scratches and bangs of the boards hitting the concrete and laughter as skaters share jokes. 

Natalie DeClerck, an alumna from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the Spalding Park Skatepark, located at 799 N. Elm St. in Champaign, is one of the most popular locations around town.

“Spalding has a great community,” DeClerck said in a text message. “I think it’s like a second home for a lot of people. Skating’s hard, and hard on your body, so having people to do it with just makes it better.”

However, daylight saving time has added some challenges to the skating community. With the sun now setting at 4:35 p.m., the skateboarders have no choice but to get up and make the trek home. 

The Spalding Park Skatepark doesn’t have a lighting system in place. The skateboarders say it’s unsafe to skate in the dark because they’re more likely to fall and hurt themselves. While they said they want to continue to do drop-ins, ollies and kickflips, the darkness forces the group to pack up and go.

The skateboarders said the city of Champaign has ignored multiple requests for the insertion of a lighting system. They said they feel betrayed by Champaign’s inaction because they’re unable to do what they’re most passionate about. Skaters like DeClerck expressed their concerns about not having a lighting system. 

“Without an indoor skating park nearby, people go to parking garages or lighted street spots where there is always the risk of getting kicked out,” DeClerk said. “People just want a designated spot to skate after sunset. Spalding Park already has the infrastructure, but the park district hasn’t been responsive about it.”

DeClerck said she wants the city board to know it is imperative for Spalding Park Skatepark to receive proper lighting and providing such would be a worthy investment for residents.

To counter the setbacks, DeClerck said the skating community helps each other out. Some skateboarders, including founder Brian Dunn, started a program called No Board Left Behind, which makes skating more accessible by repairing gear and providing new gear to those in need.

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