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The Carletonian

Feel free to skate, just not here

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CAMS Professor Cecilia Cornejo and her family moved to Northfield about five years ago. One of the main reasons for their move, aside from job offers to teach at Carleton, was that Northfield has been consistently ranked as one of the best towns for youth to grow up in. Because Cornejo had a daughter who was then entering high school, she was looking for a town that fostered a healthy environment for young people.

However, shortly after their arrival in Northfield, Cecilia began to discover that this reputation was not applicable to all of Northfield’s youth.

Cornejo soon became involved with the Key (Northfield’s youth center). Through the Key, Cornejo discovered Northfield’s Skateboard Coalition. It was at a Skateboard Coalition meeting in early 2012 that she learned of the group’s efforts to work with the Park Board to secure a temporary skate park.

In talking with the skateboarders, Cornejo discovered that Northfield’s young skateboarders had been vying for their own skate park for many years now— since 1998 when an ordinance was passed in Northfield making skateboarding, bicycles, scooters and roller blades illegal in the downtown area.

Cornejo immediately became curious as to why the group’s efforts of fourteen years had merited so little success, and she set out to uncover what obstacles they had been facing.

“Over the last few years, since 2012 and on, I think again it has been an issue of ‘of course we want the skateboarders to have a place. We just don’t want it to be here,’” Cornejo speculated.

“There have been different neighborhoods or parks that are close to residences that have been considered as suitable. [Reactions from residents] have been, ‘We’re not against the skateboarders, we don’t have an issue with that. We just don’t want the skate park here.’ It’s a ‘Not in my backyard’ kind of thing,” she said.

In order to tell this story, however, Cornejo knew she could not work alone. She therefore approached several teenage skateboarders about the possibility of telling their story through film. She has found working with these high school students to be a very rewarding experience.

“This is the first time that I’m kind of stepping out of my more familiar circle. And I was very conscious of that when I started. I knew that this is what I was doing,” Cornejo said.

“This was very interesting to me to explore a different mode of production where you’re actually sharing the power of representation. It’s not just up to me as a filmmaker to say, ‘oh let me tell your story it’s so interesting.’ I am much more interested in finding what you can do with a little bit of power, and what you can do when you share it. And that means that I have to negotiate. But I’m very interested in that. I think that that’s kind of the way to go.”

In the process of creating this documentary, Cornejo and the skateboarders are reaching out to many Northfield community members and conducting extensive interviews and research.

“What I mean by working with them is that since 2012 we have recorded every Park Board meeting. We have recorded every City Council meeting that has to do with the issue of the skate park. So we have been there with our own equipment and everything. We’ve interviewed the previous mayor. We’ve interviewed neighborhoods. We’ve interviewed the skateboarders and supporters of the skateboarders. So that’s what I mean by working together.”

The documentary is scheduled to premiere at the Weitz Cinema on September 30.

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