On April 22, Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Conklin provided glad tidings to skaters and extreme bikers across State College. That is, the municipality will receive $250,000 in funding to build a new skate park, open to the public and allowed to be used by all.
Announced as part of a larger funding hike totaling $1.75 million, most of this money is going toward beefing up the traffic and pedestrian safety in nearby Patton Township. The 14.3% that's heading toward State College, however, should make all residents glad whether they’re sk8er bois or girls.
There exists few sacred places in America today, locales where one can simply dwell without having to pay money or fees. Taking up space has now become a commercial act. And in this climate of ever-encroaching commercialization, the handful of sanctuaries free from the profit motive become evermore precious.
What a joy, then, to welcome another oasis of R&R into our community. Especially in an area such as State College, which forms an admittedly mutualistic relationship with Penn State but still must assert its independence every now and then, this joy becomes magnified.
The skate park represents a benefit to the State College community outside of a Penn State context. Students are invited, of course, but this gift is addressed to the entire township and not just the university.
It's a rare gift, indeed, one that often passes by poorer neighborhoods or communities of color. Such areas are significantly less likely to have access to green spaces than wealthier and whiter slices of the country, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Considered from this perspective, the newly-sanctioned skate park serves as both a hopeful largesse from Harrisburg and a solemn reminder that such gifts tend to skew alongside certain socioeconomic and racial lines.
But also, let's face it: most State College parks and green spaces hardly make other townships green with envy. The Collegian office is located near such a public park, and the offending retreat is rather lackluster. A few trees. A couple benches. A playset that's always mysteriously free from actual children.
Downtown State College has seen an explosion in residential and commercial ventures in the past few years. This commerce boom should be met by a boom in community spaces — a joint-venture where the summits of high rises are counterbalanced with peaceful places meant for play. Out with the tired, in with the fresh and lively.
A skate park is as good a start for this revolution as any. Under the reign of coronavirus, many people have begun to appreciate nature more and more. They now see all of the benefits that a simple stroll in nature or an ollie off the ramp can bring to the human mind. Moreover, they willingly seek out such areas and activities at unprecedented rates.
Downtown State College, as magical as it is, suffers from deprivation of the natural world. Too few green activists and too few green spaces. Penn State and other communities can fix the former; it's up to State College (and Harrisburg) to resolve the latter.
Daily Collegian Opinion Editor David Tilli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.