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County's new skate park honors boy hit by bullet

By ,
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 12:12 PM
APOLLO BEACH -

Diego Duran, like many other 13-year-old boys, loves to skateboard.

So the Ruskin youth showed up Saturday at the newest park in Hillsborough County, skateboard under his arm, ready to roll.

But he was held back by his parents. It was too dangerous. With a bullet lodged in his brain, Diego would be in big trouble if he fell.

He was told to put the skateboard up, and that was tough to do in a place that was named after him last week. The Diego Duran Skateboard Plaza at the Apollo Beach Skate Park became the newest jewel in the county's skateboard park system, opening during the weekend.

About 100 people, including Diego and his parents, showed up for the official grand opening on Saturday.

Diego, a skateboard enthusiast, was wounded on New Year's Eve by a falling bullet and hasn't been cleared medically to try the ramps and pipes. Despite his injury, he is determined to someday be a professional skateboarder.

His family doesn't know when Diego will be able to skate again, said his mom, Sandra Duran. Every three months, he undergoes a brain scan to keep track of the bullet and monitor his brain activity. When doctors clear him, she said, he will skate.

Having the skate park named after him is an honor — one that moved Diego when he was first told of the decision, his mother said.

"The expression on his face was priceless," Duran said. "It was truly a Kodak moment, one I will never forget."

Diego has been asking about the park and tracking its progress since that day in the hospital, when his parents told him about the plan to name the park's skating area after him.

As it was being built, relatives videotaped the construction and showed Diego the updates as he recovered, his mother said.

Last week, the Hillsborough County Commission unanimously voted to name the park's skating area after Diego, whose family has undertaken a campaign, Bullet Free Sky, to draw awareness to the dangers of shooting firearms into the air.

The park is the second skate park built by the county, which now is considering building another in northwest Hillsborough County. The first is in Brandon.

Apollo Beach's 11,000-square-foot park, at 664 Golf and Sea Blvd., is shaped like a three-pointed star and has an elevated center. Each of the three points has a structure that allows skaters to turn around and maintain a constant flow.

Its unique shape and landscape allow for endless lines throughout, and skaters can skate around the entire park or simply skate one element at a time.

Skaters must wear helmets, fill out a waiver and have it notarized before being allowed onto the park.

Through September, admission to the skate park is free. Starting in October, there will be a charge of $4 per use or $150 for an annual pass that includes unlimited admission to all the county-owned skate parks.


kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760

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