For Luis Hernandez, the Black Pearl Skate Park is more than just a place to try out new stunts on his BMX.
“I can say with 100 percent certainty this park has kept me out of a lot of trouble,” says the 21-year-old, who discovered a talent for the sport five years ago.
“Without the park, I would have been out hanging with the wrong crowd doing things I shouldn’t have been doing,” said Mr. Hernandez, who believes BMX riding provided a positive outlet he had not found elsewhere.
As soon as he got on a bike, he says, it felt like “this is what I was supposed to be doing.”
“It really kept me busy and active in a positive way and I would love to see it do the same for more young people,” said Mr. Hernandez, who now works at Comfort Suites and helps at the skate park in his spare time.
Michael Myles, government’s at-risk youth officer and the chairman of the Cayman Islands Skateboard Association, said the park is expanding to provide for more youngsters like Luis Hernandez.
In the last few months, floodlights have been installed to enable the park to remain open at night. A new skate shop with rental equipment has been put up on site, and basketball hoops and a Saturday chess club have been added for youngsters who do not want to skate.
“The ultimate aim is for this to be a youth center that serves our young people with multiple activities,” said Mr. Myles, who hosted an event Thursday for sponsors and supporters of the park.
He said progress has been made possible by the support of sponsors, including the Ministry of Sport and Northward Prison, which provided volunteer labor at the site.
He is still looking for sponsors for more basketball hoops and a sound system, as well as rental bikes, helmets and other equipment.
“This is all about making sure kids have something constructive to do and that the park is available to as many young people as possible,” Mr. Myles said.
The skate park is now open until 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 9 p.m. on weekends. Chess club takes place at the Grand Harbour venue from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays.
The park is used four days a week by the Extended After School Program and every day by the neighboring Hope Academy.
TOP PHOTO: Jon Mikol Rankin, who worked for several years at the skate park before joining the fire service, shows off some stunts at the park on Thursday.