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Woman documents skateboarders' fight in Shepherdstown

July 13, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - When skateboarders in Shepherdstown began fighting for their right to ride, Anne Walter helped give them a voice.

After town officials started considering a ban on skateboarding in town, adults who supported the young skateboarders began showing up at Shepherdstown Town Council meetings to defend the kids.

Supporters talked about the strong bond skateboarders had formed and said the kids would be lost if their pastime came to an end in town.

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Walter, a filmmaker who has done work on documentaries, came to like the kids, too. They impressed her so much that she decided to create a DVD about their fight to allow some sort of skateboarding in town.

Walter filmed the kids skateboarding in town and the lively town council meetings where supporters fought for the kids. Sales of her DVD, titled "Skids 2005," helped raise money for the cause and were later given away as prizes at a skateboarding contest after a deal was worked out to allow skateboarding in a section of town.

Instead of passing an immediate ban on skateboarding, town council members decided to give the kids and their supporters six months to come up with a plan to allow skateboarding in town, Walter said. The six months also was set aside to determine if skateboarders could improve their riding habits, including not interfering with pedestrians, Walter said.

The solution agreed upon by both sides was the establishment of a skate park at The Train Station between German and High streets in Shepherdstown. Through the leadership of the Shepherdstown Skate Society, an organization that formed to support the kids, volunteers pitched in to build skate ramps to create the park at the train station.

Now when kids want to skateboard, the ramps can be set up at the train station for a day of riding.

It's not planned to be a permanent fix, said Walter. The idea is to find a permanent facility for skateboarders, Walter said.

"That in itself may take years. But I think we've gotten a jump on it," said Walter, a member of the Shepherdstown Skate Society.

In her DVD, Walter shows the skateboarders sliding, crashing and rolling through parts of town, including a plaza area outside the Frank Center at Shepherd University.

Walter interviewed people on the street who supported a way to allow kids to keep skateboarding.

One of the people who appears in the film is Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Surkamp.

Surkamp said in the DVD that the strong interest in skateboarding in town is a way for some individuals to express themselves.

"It's how you express your freedom. This is what Shepherdstown is all about - people being who they are and not being afraid of who they are," Surkamp says in the DVD.

Walter, 26, said she liked the sense of humor and spirit among the kids.

"I think these are the kids we want in Shepherdstown," Walter said.

The skate park was completed at the beginning of spring and the Shepherdstown Skate Society held a skateboarding contest at The Train Station on June 10, when copies of Walter's DVD were distributed as prizes.

Walter is still selling copies of the DVD for $10, proceeds from which will be used to fund establishment of a permanent skate park. To obtain a copy, send an e-mail to alwproductions@mac.com or call 304-886-3653.

Besides making documentary films, Walter also has worked in audio recording. She has lived in Shepherdstown about 16 years and is the ad manager and assistant box office manager for the Contemporary American Theater Festival.

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