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Lancaster finds new inspiration The death of Bryce Buchholz has sparked an effort to provide a biking and skating park

Community members in Lancaster have talked for a couple years about finding a place where teenage bicyclists and skateboarders can ride, grind and do tricks without annoying owners of stores in the village's central business district.

People involved in the effort had made only modest progress, until May 3, when a Lancaster Middle School student was struck and killed by a drunken driver as he rode his bright orange bike on Lake Avenue.

Now, Bryce Buchholz's death has spurred his family, friends and members of the public to honor the BMX enthusiast by building a bike and skate park in his memory.

"We've been talking about a skate park," said Jim Formato, a school resource officer with the Lancaster Police Department. "Why don't we do something in honor of Bryce?"

Bryce's friends like the idea of building a park because, for now, they don't have many places they can ride in Lancaster.

"Just a good spot where nobody can kick you out," said Danny Steck, 13, a St. Mary's School student who has skateboarded since first grade and lived down the street from Bryce.

They usually meet in downtown Lancaster, where they zip down concrete steps and along planters, benches and sidewalk curbs – something Bryce was doing the night he was killed.

But some owners of businesses along Central Avenue and West Main Street say the teens intimidate customers and damage property.

The police say the teen bikers and skateboarders aren't doing anything illegal, but some in the central business district have grown increasingly frustrated over the past month.

"They were pretty adamant about it being a problem for pedestrians, and it affecting their business," said Lancaster Mayor William G. Cansdale Jr., who has twice met with store owners on this issue. "It's a difficult situation right now."

Teen bikers and skateboarders in Lancaster flock to the area near the Lancaster Opera House, along Central Avenue between West Main Street and Pleasant Avenue West, and in the nearby parking lots of the Sav-A-Lot and the Rite Aid drugstore.

They come after school, after dinner and on weekends, and at any time of the year as long as there isn't snow or ice on the sidewalks. Bikers and skateboarders say they don't have a lot of other options in their suburban community.

"There's nowhere to go," said Ryan Neth, 14, a skateboarder turned biker who was riding with Bryce the night he died.

The Sirens Skateshop, which opened at 30 Central Ave. last August, is another draw for the teens, who ride in lazy circles or do jumps and other tricks off the steps of Town Hall.

The teens aren't doing anything illegal when they ride their bikes or skateboards, said Lancaster Police Chief Gerald J. Gill Jr., a supporter of a skate and bike park. Officers are instructed to tell the teens to keep the sidewalk clear.

Jim Everett, president of Performance Advantage, at 6 W. Main St., shares some of the business owners' concerns, but he wanted to find somewhere for these young people to go.

Backers of a skate park had slowly worked toward their goal prior to May 3, when Michael C. Ettipio, 23, smashed into Bryce on Lake Avenue in Lancaster. Ettipio, who drove away without stopping, later pleaded guilty to first-degree vehicular manslaughter.

Denise Neth had dropped off Bryce, 14, and her son Ryan at the Sav-A-Lot parking lot that evening.

She called her son to see if he wanted her to pick them up, but the boys already had started riding their bikes home and Ryan said he'd be home soon. They were riding on Lake because she had warned them to stay off the busier Aurora Street.

"They did what they were told," Denise Neth said.

Formato and Anne Monin, coordinator of the Lancaster Family Support Center, went to Ryan's Depew home the day after the fatal crash to meet with the devastated teen and his mother and mentioned their efforts to find a safe place for teens to ride.

Denise and Ryan Neth signed on, and, inspired by Bryce's death, dozens of residents packed the June 11 Village Board meeting.

The speakers included Bryce's father, Bill, who marveled at his son's effect on the community and asked trustees for their assistance.

The boosters of the skate park face significant challenges, beginning with raising the estimated $100,000 to $150,000 cost of the facility, Everett said.

They also need to find a location for the park, with volunteers saying they prefer village-owned parkland near the North End Fire Station at the southwest corner of West Drullard and Central avenues.

Anyone interested in supporting the skate and bike park can buy orange T-shirts, stickers and wristbands honoring Bryce from Sirens Skateshop or contribute to the Bryce Buchholz Fund at any First Niagara Bank branch. There's also a website, www.flyhighridefreebryce.com.

"The people who knew him, both young and old, want to memorialize him," Everett said.

email: swatson@buffnews.com