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Skateboarders and BMX riders hopeful

July 17, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

WILLIAMSPORT

Williamsport residents can expect to see a half-pipe - the concave ramps used by skateboarders and BMX racers - pop up in a local church's parking lot soon.

New Hope Alliance Church wants to provide an opportunity for teenagers to enjoy their sports in a town that outlawed skateboarding in public places. Pastor Todd Stroud calls it "Skate-church."

"We had seen that skateboarders had been here, so we knew there was interest, and we knew it was illegal in Williamsport," Stroud said. "We saw a video of another church that had a very strong ministry in this way."

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Using ramps borrowed from a church in Frederick, Md., Stroud set up a skate park in his 24-car parking lot.

After an initial lull, seven BMX jumpers and a few skateboarders showed up Sunday night at one of Skatechurch's first meetings. All brought helmets or borrowed one from the church.

Stroud said that allowing skateboarders access to ramps and a half-pipe in the church parking lot demonstrated God's love to the teenagers. He said he plans to combine the weekly skating with a 15-minute "dialogue" about faith.

Another member of the church, Brian Tussing, is designing and building the half-pipe. Tussing, 43, said he has been skateboarding since 1975 and sees it as a way to reach a different group of people.

"Some kids that don't get involved in other sports get involved in skateboarding. Some people who wouldn't go to regular church would go to Skatechurch," he said.

Until the half-pipe is installed, Skatechurch will be sponsoring field trips to skating parks around the area on Sunday nights, Stroud said.

New Hope Alliance Church is accepting liability for the skaters and bikers, Stroud said. The half-pipe and other ramps will not be accessible except on Sunday nights.

Local teenagers can check on Skatechurch's schedule, which will be posted behind the church's sign, Stroud said.




Skatechurch meetings



When: Sundays, 6 p.m.

Where: New Hope Alliance Church parking lot, 302 S. Artizan St., Williamsport.

What else: Open to those 11 years old to 18 years old. Helmets are required and pads are strongly encouraged.

For more information: Call 301-223-1515.

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