A 10-foot tall chain link fence surrounds the only public skate park in Sandy: Lone Peak Skate Park, across the street from the walled-in White City township (walls must be a thing out here). A "rules and regulations" sign nearby informs me that the park is locked every night, between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., but it's mid-afternoon and the gates are shut tight, this time due to construction.
Skate park closures also seem to be a thing out here; another laminated post warns that vandalism or inappropriate actions ("profanity, reckless or boisterous behavior") will result in "future or progressive closures up to two days." I'm starting to feel like I've found a hold-over from the Wild West. If it weren't currently a ghost town, I imagine Lone Peak might be a real rough and tumble place set amid the peaceable housing developments.
"The Sandy skate park is really popular. It has a lot of small, beginner stuff. Lots of kids ride there," Sierra, a skater girl I meet at the Jordan Skate Park the following day, informs me. Despite my subtle prompts, trying to uncover the insider truth about the park's seedy nature, she's not talking. "Thing are pretty cool there," she insists.
I'm actually relieved to hear that things aren't as bad as they at first appeared. On a mission to find the best spots to ride this summer, I was worried after my first investigative stop that I'd gotten into more than I'd bargained for. After all, skaters have a bit of a reputation. No one seems to want them grinding their rails or riding their streets. The University of Utah even tried briefly to ban downhill riders from campus last summer. It often seems like the world envisions hooligans and punks when they see a skateboarder, but there's got to be a good reason why Salt Lake City and a number of surrounding municipalities (see sidebar) have put good money into creating over a dozen free, public skate parks.
The day I show up at the Jordan Skate Park—known to insiders as "the 9th & 9th park"—the vibe is pretty mellow. A half dozen early 20-somethings cruise around the bowl—a couple guys in skinny jeans and two girls in grunge plaid shirts. They each take turns, one person dipping in for a quick ride around the bowl and then back out, leaving it open for the next rider. Everyone seems to kind of know each other, but there's not much talking, and it certainly isn't loud. As for "boisterous or profane" behavior, I happen to overhear one of the girls mutter "fuck me" as she almost loses her balance coming out of a turn.
Each of the valley's skate parks, I learn talking with skaters Sierra and Nollie, reflects the neighborhood it's in. "There's lots of cheap rent around here," laughs Nollie, which I figure explains why I've only seen college-age kids at this cement pool.
Who's skating where also reflects the park's design. Some parks are designed only for skateboards, while others allow inline skates, BMX freestyle bikes and scooters. The easier parks—with fatter rails and smaller bowls—also tend to attract more kids and beginner-level riders.
Just as I'm packing up to leave, a little guy with a scooter rides up to the bowl. He hangs around Nollie, just behind her like a shadow, until she looks down at him. "What's up, buddy?" she asks, and hands him her skateboard.