Micah Vergiels first picked up a skateboard a few years ago, but initially didn’t make it a hobby.
It was something he did off and on.
That changed when the 14-year-old moved to Pahoa about five months ago. Like dozens of other kids, hitting the town’s skate park has become an after-school ritual for him, where he meets and makes friends.
“If you skate, you probably share a lot of qualities with people who do skate,” Micah said Tuesday afternoon between runs at the skate park. “It’s also like a community. Everybody treats each other very nice.”
That community has grown during the past few months as parents of skateboarders and others formed a new group to help maintain and improve the facility.
Tonya Miller, a board member of Friends of the Pahoa Skate Park, said the group came together in response to rumors that Hawaii County was considering closing the facility because of complaints. Issues included kids skating in the parking lot and crowding around new bathrooms built for the Pahoa regional park, located next to the skating area.
Miller, whose son skates, said the county implemented new rules, which created some friction.
A community meeting was hosted in September and the idea of forming the group was proposed.
“If we want things to get better we have to step up and make it better,” Miller said was the response at the meeting.
McLean Eames, board president, said about 100 people showed up to the first meeting, and were all “fired up.”
The group now has a friends of the park agreement with the county Department of Parks and Recreation, and already helped repair the skate park’s fence and install a canopy tent over its bleachers, all with volunteer help.
Members also will frequently stop by after the kids get out of the school and when the skate park is most in use. Miller said she will sometimes bring pizza or chips for the skaters. That helps them feel appreciated, she said.
Eames, who also is the athletic director at Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science, said the group has a good relationship with the county.
He said he got involved because he saw how beneficial skating is for some of his students.
“Our goal is to set a good foundation with the county so we can build a world-class facility for our community,” Eames said.
The group hosted its first event, a “spook and skate,” for Halloween. About 300 kids attended, Miller estimated.
Other plans include resurfacing the skate park, opened about a decade ago, and building a flatland area with rails for more street-style skating so the kids don’t need to use the parking lots.
“I think everyone is looking at skating in Pahoa a lot differently now,” Miller said.
Parks and Recreation Director Roxcie Waltjen didn’t respond to a request for comment by deadline Wednesday.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.