Stortford skate park champion Luke Stokoe helping to ensure no obstacles to town council revamp
Key involvement from a dedicated group of youngsters is aiming to ensure a revamp of Bishop's Stortford's skate park fits with the needs of skater boys and girls who use it.
The revamp, set to begin this year, falls within the construction of a "teenage recreation space" in Sworder's Field and will include repairs and repainting of the existing skate area and a concrete extension.
The £200,000 Bishop's Stortford Town Council project will also feature a parkour area, zip line, timber adventure play features, seating and a shelter, gym equipment, retention of the graffiti wall, refurbishment of the basketball court and a climbing wall.
Councillors have been liaising with 20-year-old stunt scooter rider Luke Stokoe for the skate park upgrade, with vital input from four other urban sports fans.
Luke posted a heartfelt appeal on Facebook in January after the project had been delayed, saying he felt the voice of the town's young people was not being heard, and he asked for an update on the plans. His post generated more than 80 comments and he says it did the trick.
"The whole skate park stuff has spiralled from the council knowing exactly what we want," said Luke, who added that the others who had been involved were Will Holt, Teddy Garrett, Grace Ombler and Mary Jackson.
He said that although the council had reached out to young people through the schools, it was important for skaters who use the park to be involved in the project.
"The council used Will's designs and there were a couple of obstacles we weren't sure about."
Luke has been invited to liaise with town council chief executive James Parker after he attended a public amenities committee meeting earlier this month and the group is now trying to set up a meeting with contractor Freestyle. Luke said "only time will tell" if the firm followed their plan.
Luke, who has been commended by Herts police for his mentorship of young riders and boarders, first began using his skate board at the park when he was around 11. He switched to a scooter when he struggled to do a specific trick on his board.
The former Birchwood High School student believes the skate park is a crucial facility for young people.
"As the gym is for some people, it's an escape from some of the things in your life," said Luke. "It's good exercise as well."
There has been some frustration from some skaters at parents allowing young children to interrupt their tricks, although Luke is understanding of the issues.
"We're not trying to stop them having fun, we're just trying to make it as safe as possible," said Luke, who added there was a lot of other equipment in Sworder's Field for younger children.
He said the atmosphere at the park was friendly and he was keen for people to come and see what goes on there, although to some seeing a group of young people together could pose issues.
"I understand why some people would feel nervous to come over – it can look a bit scary to come up and ask questions. But if you go up to anyone [not in the middle of a trick!] people are nice enough."
Town council leader John Wyllie told the Indie that as far as he was aware drainage issues had been resolved and it was all systems go on the Castle Park project.
He was delighted Luke and his friends were involved in the design of the skate park.
"I think it's extremely important as they're the ones who are going to use it," he said. "It guides us to what's good and what's bad because they'll have used other facilities."
He was hopeful the suggestions from the skaters would be taken into account although cautioned the council would need to manage expectations.