Bakersfield teacher builds family-oriented skate park

A skateboarder hits the top of the half-pipe at Ronka Underground Skatepark in Bakersfield, Calif., March 8, 2018. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

Public skate parks are supposed to be a place for kids to play, but they aren't always safe.

Go to the skate park at Beach Park in Bakersfield. You'll find kids, teens and adults on bikes, boards and scooters. But, this place isn't always as friendly as you might think.

According to some kids, people here often use vulgar language, fight and steal.

The experiences of her son and his friends at Beach Park is what motivated fourth-grade teacher Suzie Harris to build her own park.

"I said, 'I'm building you guys a park. I don't know when. I don't know how, but I'm gonna to do it," described Harris.

Now, that promise is Ronka Underground Skatepark, a 1,200-square-foot indoor skate park that Harris runs with her husband Jeff. It took them years to build from scratch.

It's open to all kids of all ages, but they've got rules.

"If the kids are cussing, they get a timeout, they're off the floor. If they're fighting, they are banned for the day," said Harris.

They also require all riders to wear helmets.

Kids normally don't like rules, but at Ronka they do. Kids such as Hudson Adamson, a little dude who can really shred on a scooter.

He comes to Ronka to avoid the rough crowd at the public parks.

"There was a lot of fights sometimes, and then there was a lot of drug abuse and stuff," said Adamson.

But there's none of that at Ronka, made by one family and designed for every family.

In fact, the kids who come here have created their own family, as the older guys watch the little ones grow.

"You kinda feel like that-used-to-be-me kinda thing," said Caleb Wright, a skateboarder who has been going to Ronka since it opened.

It's exactly what Harris envisioned: a safe, family-friendly skate park, where shredders of all ages could get better at the sport they love.

Ronka isn't free. It's $6 an hour, but Harris said they only charge enough to keep the lights on.

Every weekend they do tournaments, which draw hundreds of skaters from around the country and the world. But you don't need to compete to join in the fun.

The skate park also has accommodations for children with developmental disabilities and autism.

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