D.J. Kain, Nick Craig and Josh Thomas were hanging out around Main Street in Lake Stevens a few weeks ago, bummed about their fate.
The 13-year-olds love to skateboard, but it’s pretty hard to find a place in town where people won’t chase you off.
Looking across the street at City Hall, D.J. was struck by an idea.
Time to talk to the mayor.
“We said, ‘Hey, what the heck? Let’s go talk to him,’” D.J. said.
They asked Mayor Lynn Walty what it would take to build a skate park in town.
Over in Marysville, a similar meeting occurred. Students at Marysville Junior High met with Mayor Dennis Kendall, wanting to know how to start a teen center.
“Because we have nothing else to do,” said Carl Gaul, one of the Marysville students.
Kendall was sympathetic. Kids between 13 and 15 have outgrown their grade-school immaturity, yet they’re not old enough to drive, he said.
“In the junior high school, you’re too young to be old and too old to be young,” Kendall said.
Rather than complain about it, the kids in both cities are taking action.
In Lake Stevens, Walty said he was glad to see the boys’ initiative. He told them the first thing he would like to see was how much interest others had in the skate park.
Circulate a petition, he told them.
The suggestion didn’t seem to faze D.J., who did all the talking for the boys, Walty said.
“You could see the little wheels turning in his mind,” Walty said. It seemed to the mayor as if D.J. were thinking, “We can do this, guys.”
They did. In about two weeks, the three boys and another friend, Camden Elliott, 12, collected 299 signatures. They presented the list of names to Walty and the Lake Stevens City Council.
“I was shocked that they had as many signatures as they did,” Walty said.
D.J.’s dad, Dave Kain Sr., 35, was surprised, too, when the boys first came home from City Hall.
“They said that they were talking to the mayor,” Kain said. “I thought, ‘Oh man, what are you guys doing now?’”
He was pleased by the answer, though.
“We’ve been telling them, if you want to do something, you’ve got to go for it,” Kain said.
Following the direction of the mayor and City Council, the boys started asking people what kind of skate park they wanted. Almost everybody said they wanted an all-around park with street features and bowls, similar to the park in Mill Creek, D.J. said.
Some of the local service clubs have expressed interest in helping with donations. Walty’s staff is studying the park’s cost and its financing, which could be about $300,000.
In Marysville, the students in Mike Fitzpatrick’s class were still figuring out how to gather the information their mayor wanted.
Like Walty, Kendall wanted them to gauge interest in a teen center.
For student Kerri Dean, the center should be a safe place to hang out away from gangs and drugs.
Another student, Josh Brown, said it should be like the Boys &Girls Club but without younger kids.
Their teacher, Fitzpatrick, gently reminded them of the mayor’s request.
“Do we know the whole school’s interested?” he said. “We’re interested, but do we know?”
“I think that we need to ask different groups,” student Kristina Naff said.
“Somebody needs to make up a survey,” student Ashley Kummerfeldt said.
As class ended, they found volunteers to get it going.
Mayor Kendall said he was encouraged by their start. He’ll be watching their follow-through.
“It would be part of their responsibility to talk to the community to let them know why they need to have this,” Kendall said. “Because you have to have that community support.”
In Lake Stevens, D.J. Kain said it would not matter if he and his friends outgrew their skateboarding passion before a park could be built.
“At least we (would) know we did something for the community, so that’ll be pretty cool,” Kain said.