Kooktown has been a safe haven for local skaters for a number of years now. For me, it was a place where I didn`t have to worry about kids on scooters or getting vibed out. Kooktown was always a strong representation of the comradery our local skate community has. Kooktown has always had it`s dry spells. The heat would be on for a month when the owner would be in town but the rest of the year would be free game. It is honestly amazing that it`s been going as long as it has. Recently the property was purchased. The new owner seems to want the skaters gone permanently. So much in fact, that he pulled a gun on local skater Tyler Fort ( or TILO as most of us know him). There has been a lot of confusion about just what is going to happen to Kooktown, so I called up Tyler and got the low down on what it`s like to start your session off with a gun in your face.
Trenton: So basically what happened with this dude pulling a gun on you?
TILO: Well I mean , I`m sure you guys heard about it, I was just out there skating like normal, Im sure you guys know about the new guy that owns the property...
Trenton; I haven`t really heard anything other than that kooktown is going away.
TILO: That`s the thing, this guy bought it, and has been out there for the past few months surveying the area saying “break your skateboard” yadda yadda yadda. Then I was out there saturday morning around 10 am just skating, not really causing any mischief, then the guy comes in out of the far left corner , runs up to me cursing, and in a matter of 20 seconds he has already pulled the gun out. He was waving it around talking about “ what the $#@& are you doing here” and he just went from zero to 100 really quick.
Trenton: Really? So he was crazy immediately?
TILO: Yeah, I guess he has been having some issues with skateboarders in the past week or so. He put out a bunch of signs and blocked the exits off, but still I don`t think thats the best way to handle yourself in a community, just waving a gun around, there are better ways to handle yourself.
Trenton:Is this the same guy from before that used to kick us out.
TILO: No, this is a actually a new guy, because I called the cops and talked with them and they said that they`ve had some issues with the guy. He bought it within the last 2 months. But if you`ve been there, there is a “for sale” sign which is in the far left corner(which I took a picture of). I plan on calling the rental company or leasing agency to see whats up and get the details on who is selling it and to see whats going on with that piece of property because it seems that this guy bought it just to sell it.
TILO: And that kinda stinks because a lot of people have put in a lot of work on this kooktown spot, and I understand that its private property, But i think that there is a better way to go about it that can kinda keep everybody involved, and keep people safe, without using guns.
Trenton:Totally, I heard something today that someone had bashed out one of the windows of the cars the guy had blocking the gate.
TILO: Thats what the cops told me so I think thats why the guy was so aggresive. I think he was coming in already hyped up on the previous situation. Then just kinda came in and tried to lump me in with that same crowd. As the guy was yelling at me, I was kinda talking to him and reasoning with him saying “hey you are going to go to jail for the rest of your life if you do this” “I`m just skating” “ I`m peaceful” And kinda try to talk him off the ledge and I could see him kinda processing his thoughts as I was talking to him. So he started to kinda realize that this is a bad idea and finally put the gun away but he was still yelling, so I kinda backed off after that.
Trenton: Yeah cuz I`ve noticed that there has been more and more kids coming out, spray-painting and stuff like that
TILO: Yeah, i don`t know why he was so hyped to tell ya the truth
Trenton: Thats nuts so he just came out waving a gun and wylin out ?
TILO: Within the first 15 seconds of my interaction with him, the gun was out. Maybe even quicker than that. I was on the phone with a friend and see this guy walking up to me just cursing cursing cursing and then boom, gun out , and that is when I just started backing up. I was like “ naw forget this dude “ and I called the cops. And the cops were surprisingly, were very understanding.
Trenton : So the cops were really cool about it?
TILO: yeah , they didn`t come out there questioning me or like saying “ why are you trespassing” or anything like that. I had to report to the cops , “ I`m just here to let you guys know that this guy is gunna kill somebody or hurt somebody, if he keeps freaking out like this”, the cops were were like, “we totally understand, we`ve seen you guys skate out here for years, so we understand your situation” and thats when they told me about the guy getting his window smashed earlier in the week. And you know the cops were cool, they didn`t give me any kind of trespassing warrant, which didn`t surprise me because i see them out there all the time. It was still kinda cool because they didn`t stereotype me as a some unruly skateboarder or anything.
Trenton: Exactly, Ive seen them drive by like tons of times and never say anything
TILO: exactly, and thats why I wasn`t scared to call them, I was just telling them for the safety of all the skaters who skate there. Like, what if i was a knucklehead, or what if I was a kid that did`nt understand the gravity of the situation and thought it was a game and ended up getting shot. Thats mostly why I`m pissed off and upset about it.
Trenton: You`ve also kind of been skating there since it first got going haven`t you?
TILO: Yeah since they first started it, i guess around 2011 or 2012 when they really started pouring concrete, but people have been going there since it was gang green and it should totally be seen as a community spot. People work, people build , its kind of a small territory of skaters you don`t find anywhere else , then this guy comes in , and i understand that there is legality involved, but there are better ways to handle a situation and make it peaceful on both ends than literally comin` out guns a blazing. That could have ended so many different ways.
Going back to people putting in work, Its a place where people just go to chill and skate but i promise you that the people that actually skate, keep that place in the best possible condition. I promise you that the people that live around there and that are aware of the skaters are not threatened by us at all. And that guy basically came in there and said to himself “ I don`t care, I`m just gunna cause a rift in this area”
Trenton: Do you think that some of the kids that don`t actually skate and just kind of hang around could have been the ones to smash the window?
TILO: Theres no tellin and thats the unfortunate thing, because within any kind of group there are always sub groups that you can blame things on, there are always going to be people that are not really with it and there for a different reason. There are people out there who are building, who are skating, they have brooms and are willing to help clean up. Then there are of course people out there who are up to no good. I just don`t think that its fair to lump everybody into one group. You cant say “ there is spray-paint and trash here, you have a skateboard, so you did it”
Trenton: Do you think we would be better off just making a different diy spot?
TILO: yeah and thats actually what I told the cop, I said “ look if this spot gets shut down, within a year there will be another” and the cop said “ i know, and we are cool with that “ I mean , we are resillient, if kooktown gets shut down then I`m gunna be skating within the next two days, you are gunna skating within the next two days, you are not gunna stop us, its just going to help us approach it in maybe a different way and try to keep it moving.
Trenton: I think if anything its a good lesson for the younger crowd that maybe have`nt really ever had a spot taken away from them before .
TILO: It is because a lot of those kids have`nt had front yard ramps. None of those kids have had to build a jump ramp, quarter-pipe, or skate the loading docks. That mentality has been gone for like 15 years. Kids growing up now have city sanctioned skateparks that they can do whatever at and there are no consequences, so they don`t really understand having a spot thats not sanctioned in which you have to keep your word and keep it clean and sort of live by a certain code. Its unfortunate, but this will teach the younger kids that you can`t take these spots for granted. When you just go in and don`t pick up your trash, bash out windows, and don`t leave when people ask you to leave , that just gives us a bad name. I always came up with the mentality that if someone tells you to get out of there, just leave and come back later, I`ll even tell them. I`m not trying to argue and ruin this spot i`ll just leave and come back later. We have to have a better relationship with the environment around us so that we can keep skating. We have to play the system, we cant just keep running around like idiots , we got to be smarter than them and play them to keep our spots alive.
A huge thank you to Tyler for allowing us to interview him!
- Trenton Tarpits 2016