Emma Toal talks about Harlow Skate Park, and being proud of young people taking positive action.
Whenever I go by the skate park, I am filled with pride. This is what young people can achieve when they put their mind to it and work together.
Recently, I heard someone talk about Harlow Skate Park as somewhere adults dislike and associate with wrong doing. I couldn’t disagree more with them, the skate park is one of my favourite places in Harlow and will always have a special place in my heart.
The 650sq m state-of-the-art skate park, located next to Burnt Mill School on First Avenue, was opened in 2008. That was after 20 long years of campaigning from skaters and the young people of Harlow.
I fondly remember many a summer day, in my teens, spent at the old wooden skate park – which used to be next to Pets Corner. I have to be honest though, I had no real interest in actually skating. I was there to hang out and to socialise, and quite honestly for the skater boys who resulted in many a teenage crush.
The park was always full of life and energy; it was welcoming at a time when I wasn’t really sure who I was myself. But, it was temporary and not challenging enough for the skaters. I remember always hearing the skaters moan about this and wondering why they couldn’t have something more permanent. I was even more baffled when we heard the council had money and plans to create a permanent skate park but it just kept getting stalled, local residents didn’t want it and everyone feared anti-social behaviour.
The Skaters didn’t want to upset their local community; they wanted to be part of it. Fighting for a new skate park became my passion. As a member of Harlow Youth Council we joined forces with the skaters and eventually we won, we managed to convince the ‘grown-ups’ to build our skate park. It is now firmly part of the town park and co-exists in harmony with its local residents.
Every year the skate park hosts the SX Urban Games – a day of adrenaline pumping entertainment for all ages to enjoy. Last year, over 700 talented youngsters from around Essex came to Harlow to compete and show off gravity-defying stunts on BMXs, scooters, and skateboards.
The skate park does mainly appeal to young people, but it has always welcomed those of all ages who are interested. Young people too often get a bad rep, the skate park seems to suffer from this problem as a result. I often wonder why is it that some adults seem to dislike this concrete park? It is the fear of danger that is associated with the sport, or a fear of anti-social behaviour because of the young people who use it?
Next time you are in Harlow Town Park and fancy having a wander, go have a look at the skate park – But really look at it; you will see somewhere that is accepting and is a safe place for so many young people who just want something to do and somewhere to go.
Whenever I go by the skate park, I am filled with pride. This is what young people can achieve when they put their mind to it and work together. It represents the spirit of Harlow, changing and adapting to the needs and will of all of its community.