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Preserving the skate park: Sibling skateboarding pros call upon Boca Raton to restore the park where their greatness began

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Preserving the skate park: Sibling skateboarding pros call upon Boca Raton to restore the park where their greatness began

Pedro Delfino needed to finish his homework.

The time was nearing 5 p.m. on a weekday in the early 2000s, and the Tim Huxhold Skate Park in Boca Raton teemed with as many as 60 skateboarders. Top music tracks blared from speakers.

In those days, the skate park hosted competitions, pizza parties and even live bands.

At the time, Pedro Delfino would scramble to finish his schoolwork behind the park’s check-in desk before launching outside to join the throngs of skateboarders, eventually including his younger sister, Fabiana Delfino.

Now, upon revisiting their childhood hub on a recent afternoon, Pedro, 29, and Fabiana, 27, lament the park’s decline from its heyday. Few remnants remain — faded pictures on a bulletin board from when Tony Hawk visited the park in 2001, rusty metal bars used for tricks.

“It was a different park back then,” Fabiana said.

The Boca Raton-grown siblings are both full-time, professional skateboarders, sponsored by big-name brands, including Monster Energy and Santa Cruz Skateboards for Fabiana and Vans Skateboards for Pedro.

Growing up, the Delfinos spent just about all their time at three locations: home, school and the Tim Huxhold Skate Park. They and other South Florida skateboarding enthusiasts are rallying to not only keep but improve the park, calling on the City of Boca Raton to give it some much-needed updating.

Their recent visit was a case-in-point. To skate, Pedro was required to pay a $3 daily admission fee and don a helmet. Neither would be so bad, but the park didn’t have protective gear to rent that day, so Pedro’s mother brought him a helmet, and the park doesn’t accept modern forms of payment, such as credit cards or Venmo.

Pedro, his sister and his mother rummaged through their wallets and car cup-holders for spare change. Eventually they scavenged enough coins to pay the fee.

“It’s like they want to make it a challenge to skate here,” Fabiana said.

Only the vending machines appeared to be relatively new, she noted.

“What a dead, sad park.”

Professional skateboarders, siblings Pedro and Fabiana Delfino of Boca Raton, visit Tim Huxhold Skate Park in Boca Raton where they grew up skateboarding on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The city had talked about getting rid of the skate park, but a few months ago, a bunch of advocates rallied at a city meeting to not only keep the skate park but also make it better. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Professional skateboarders, siblings Pedro and Fabiana Delfino of Boca Raton, on a recent visit to Tim Huxhold Skate Park in Boca Raton, where they grew up skateboarding. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Saving South Florida’s skate parks

Pedro Delfino first began skateboarding at the Tim Huxhold Skate Park when he was 5-years-old, shortly after his family moved from Miami to Boca Raton, and his younger sister soon followed suit, often the only girl there.

But as the siblings improved, their hometown’s skate park only grew less accessible.

To use the park, visitors, including city residents, have to pay either a daily fee or buy a pass. Even if people don’t mind biting the cost, they can’t do so until the park opens. The current hours are 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Operation time posted at Tim Huxhold Skate Park in Boca Raton on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The city had talked about getting rid of the skate park, but a few months ago, a bunch of advocates rallied at a city meeting to not only keep the skate park but also make it better. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Operation time posted at Tim Huxhold Skate Park in Boca Raton. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

When Pedro was a student at Florida Atlantic University and Fabiana was a student at Palm Beach State College a few years later, neither skateboarder could use the Tim Huxhold Skate Park either in-between or before classes because it wasn’t open during the day.

And though it was within walking distance for both of their college campuses, they instead drove 30 miles north to the free, fence-less West Boynton Skate Park where they still practice now when they aren’t traveling the world for skateboarding events.

These deterrents are what brought a pack of skateboarders to a Boca Raton community forum on Jan. 18 to advocate not only for free admission and longer hours but also to make sure the skate park is kept open in the future.

City Spokeswoman Anne Marie Connelly said in a statement the engagement from the skating community brought an awareness to the city.

Strategic planning sessions are coming up in May, which Connelly said will likely start conversations about “that area and the amenities within it.”

No plans are currently in the works for free admission or hours expansion, but Connelly also noted the daily fee has not increased since the facility’s inception in 1998. The fees “help offset the city staff supervision, maintenance of the facility and electricity costs for the lights,” and the hours “reflect the typical usage.”

Toni Frallicciardi, the co-founder of Surf Skate Science in Deerfield Beach, a homeschool co-op, said in the months leading up to to January meeting she had received calls from parents concerned about the skate park possibly closing in the future.

Connelly did not respond to questions about whether the city had planned on shutting down the park.

At a March 25 City Council meeting during which the findings of the community forum were presented to council members, former deputy mayor Monica Mayotte asked if people expressed a desire for the skate park to be downtown or if it could exist elsewhere in the city.

“I did not get the impression that it had to be downtown,” Community Advisory Panel Chair Linda Marenus said during the meeting.

The push to restore the Boca Raton skate park has only been further amplified by recent closures of other parks. Two skate parks, Drop In Action Sports Complex, Inc. in Boca Raton and Ramp48 in Fort Lauderdale, closed in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

On April 8, skateboarding advocates created a petition, which has more than 2,000 signatures, to halt the demolition of Plant Drive Skatepark in Palm Beach Gardens, which is at risk of being replaced by an ice rink.

“All of us in our community are just really fighting for some safe, free, quality skate parks for everybody to be able to skate at,” Frallicciardi said.

Frallicciardi said her son, who is a student at FAU, along with other skateboarders on campus, would likely use the Tim Huxhold Skate Park a lot more if it was open more often and free.

When Pedro and Fabiana visited, one other skateboarder was there, adorning a helmet with spikes.

Professional skateboarder Pedro Delfino of Boca Raton, visits Tim Huxhold Skate Park in Boca Raton where he and his sister grew up skateboarding on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The city had talked about getting rid of the skate park, but a few months ago, a bunch of advocates rallied at a city meeting to not only keep the skate park but also make it better. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Professional skateboarder Pedro Delfino of Boca Raton performing tricks at Tim Huxhold Skate Park in Boca Raton. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

A ‘deviant’ Olympic activity

Despite some of the recent shuttering of skate parks in South Florida, skateboarding’s Olympic debut in 2021 in Tokyo, Japan, proved it to be a more than-worthy spectator sport, generating renewed interest and hiking up the desire for more skate parks, a fact Jason Ranft knows very well.

Ranft, the owner of Jay Ramps, based in Hollywood, has been building skate parks for more than 30 years in cities around the world and for celebrities such as rapper Lil Wayne and actress Michelle Pfeiffer.

“There’s a ginormous demand of skate parks due to the Olympics,” he said. “Ever since then, globally, there’s an insane demand.”

The biggest hurdle skateboarders still face are stigmas, especially in an upscale city such as Boca Raton, Ranft said.

People fear what skateboarding could bring to a city, such as graffiti, he said, but that’s an outdated and false belief.

“What skateboarding became and what it is today is such a family-oriented (activity),” he said.

To some, skateboarding should be deemed as an asset to a city rather than just an activity.

Zach Moldof, the president of the nonprofit Skate Bud, which advocates for skateboarding accessibility, grew up skating in Broward County, a pastime he believes helped him stay out of trouble.

But instead of being seen as a way to help the youth, Moldof said skateboarding is often deemed a “deviant activity” or “destructive.”

No one is more familiar with the perception that skateboarding is a blemish to a city than Fabiana.

“I grew up at a time where skateboarding was viewed as a degenerate activity,” she said. “It’s something that criminals did, young kids up to no good. And that’s a stereotype, honestly, that’s been enforced upon me.”

She receives nothing but admiration now from friends and family alike, but only after proving that becoming a professional was possible and could pay her bills.

More than a decade ago, she and others made persistent efforts to improve the Boca Raton skate park, such as bringing in new obstacles. Fellow skateboarders started petitions, and Fabiana said she even wrote a letter to the city suggesting ways to improve it.

“We fought for many years and unfortunately we grew up, and so when you grow up, you have to focus on other things, and fighting for the state park, it gets pretty exhausting,” she said. “That park needed a lot of love, and the city never showed it love.”

Professional skateboarders, siblings Pedro and Fabiana Delfino of Boca Raton, visit Tim Huxhold Skate Park in Boca Raton where they grew up skateboarding on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The city had talked about getting rid of the skate park, but a few months ago, a bunch of advocates rallied at a city meeting to not only keep the skate park but also make it better. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Professional skateboarders, siblings Pedro and Fabiana Delfino of Boca Raton, visit Tim Huxhold Skate Park in Boca Raton where they grew up skateboarding. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

What would bring professionals such as the Delfinos back to practice at the Boca Raton skate park?

“At the very least, my absolute ask is just that we save this park,” she said. “It’d be great to redo it. But if we could take down the fences, and make it free for everybody … I would be (there) every day.”

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