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Community unites in support of skatepark

Skaters and bike riders ride down Fourth Street during the start of the 2nd Annual Lifland Skatepark Radical Ride Saturday afternoon in Williamsport. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Correspondent

West Fourth Street and Lifland Skatepark came to life over the weekend with the sound of skateboard wheels and bike tires emanating from Downtown in a moving community fundraiser. Lifland Skatepark’s second annual Radical Ride was held Saturday. The event, coordinated by Lonnie Wilcox, president of Lifland Skatepark, located near Memorial Park, in Williamsport, is a ride from the Genetti Hotel down West Fourth Street, ending in a celebratory session at the skatepark.

The Radical Ride is not only a fun opportunity for the skateboarding and biking community in Williamsport to gather and ride together, but it is also a fundraiser for the skatepark. The proceeds from the Radical Ride go to improving Lifland Skatepark – event attendees and Wilcox are excited for a possible street section to be added to the park, which would feature obstacles that emulate what skateboarders and bikers typically find throughout the city, such as ledges, rails and stairs.

Registration opened at 11:00 a.m. to a steadily growing crowd of locals and out-of-towners talking and laughing.

The atmosphere felt like a big family who came to share their passion.

“It’s just a bunch of people getting together and having a good time,” Nick Cipriani, who did the ride with his son, Ryder, said.

At their core, skateboarding and biking are just what Cipriani said – a good time – which is why the Radical Ride exists, to bring awareness to the benefits of skateboarding and biking in Williamsport.

“(Skateparks) get kids off the streets,” Kinsley Cohick said. “They keep the younger generation away from gang violence and drugs. A decent skatepark (in the city) would help immensely.”

Skateparks, in addition to skateboarding and biking, provide people with a space to express themselves creatively and grow as individuals. Scarlet Riggle, who enjoyed the Radical Ride from a bike trailer pulled by her parents, Nina and Josh, is already experiencing firsthand the health and lifestyle benefits of biking from her parents.

“It’s a meditation for me. I missed riding bike as a kid,” Josh Riggle said. “I could ride for miles and never get tired.” And many of the attendees never did tire of it, demonstrated in the overwhelming sense of community throughout the event. For Josh Riggle, the Radical Ride is a good way to send a message to the city that skateboarders and bikers can do what they love without being destructive – all it takes is support and understanding. Nina Riggle would like to see bike lanes added to city streets to increase the safety of cyclists and make the city more accessible.

In addition to the throngs of local skate and bike diehards were skateboarding legends Lance Mountain, Steve Olson and Pat Ngoho, who traveled to Williamsport from the West Coast for their “Love and Guts” art show at Wine & Design, 357 Market St. “Love and Guts” debuted in 2005 with Mountain, Ngoho and Olson at the helm in a small series of shows throughout the US. Today, “Love and Guts” has grown beyond the West Coast to include hundreds of artists from all over the world.

Mountain, who has been building skateparks for 15 years, said that what skateparks need to be successful are aspects that inspire both someone who has just started skating and someone who is nearing their 70s to keep having fun. But this is not an easy feat, he added, as skateboarding and even ways to skate are constantly moving forward, so it is difficult to pinpoint the exact answer to the skatepark construction dilemma.

Part of what makes these sports such a wide-reaching community keystone is because they attract a wide variety of people. From those just learning how to ride to those who have been doing it for decades – there is no age limit.

“I’ve been (riding bikes) my entire life,” Cipriani said. “It keeps you young,” Josh Albright said. This sentiment is perhaps best exemplified by Mountain, Ngoho and Olson, who have each been skateboarding since the 1970s, back even before skateparks were commonplace, Olson said.

“There’s nothing like landing a new trick for the first time,” Cohick said. “It’s a thrill.”

Skateboarding is also a beneficial coping mechanism for a lot of people who find a love for it. “Skateboarding helped me get through a lot of stuff in my life,” Cohick said. “You just go out, skateboard for a while and it clears your mind.”

Even former skaters facing debilitating injuries showed up to support and to show their still-unwavering love of skateboarding.

Ronnie Michaels had to give up skating after several back surgeries in his 20s.

“It was my creative outlet. When I lost that, I lost me,” Michaels said.

Jason Mull is a perfect example of the perseverance of skateboarders in the face of a serious injury. Despite an accident in 1999 in Ohio that caused a bone-on-bone contusion, bleeding and further bone breaking, Mull still loves skateboarding.

“I will never stop skateboarding. If I end up in a wheelchair, I will find a way to make my wheelchair into a skateboard,” Mull said. Michaels then chimed in with a smile, “give me skateboarding or give me death.”

As extreme as it may seem to most people, Michaels’ statement was not extreme to skateboarders, especially not those pushing, and pedalling, down West Fourth Street for the Radical Ride in support of creativity, community, good times and Lifland Skatepark.

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