Skaters see the world differently, and we would come to know those streets better than a cabbie. But in the summer of '96, stuck in Geauga County with no license, we were on our own.

The summer of 1996, my parents added a sunroom to our house in Chester, the town where I lived from ages six to 18. It was a nice room and all, but at age 15, I was far more interested in what construction crews left behind than a fancy new place to sit down.

Thanks to what appeared to be history's most wasteful builders, I was able to turn my driveway on Laurel Road into Chester's premier skate park - a playground for the hobby that defined me and my best friends from middle school until graduation.

Years later, after-school trips would take us to every corner of the Cleveland suburbs: the nine-set at Mayfield Middle School, the old Cleveland Heights rec center, rails on East 222nd Street, Golden Gate after rush hour.

Skaters see the world differently, and we would come to know those streets better than a cabbie. But in the summer of '96, stuck in Geauga County with no license, we were on our own.

Plywood, particle board, PVC piping, nails and lumber were gold. Every weekend, a ragtag group of ne'er-do-wells in Dead Kennedys T-shirts and perilously large jeans ransacked a trove of refuse and hauled out anything useful.

For about two months, we built ramps, rails, boxes and quarterpipes. The collection changed almost daily due to carpentry skills that could barely hang a picture frame.

It was simple calculus: Bust wheel through ramp. Slam into basketball pole. Build new ramp.

All we had was a hammer and a hacksaw.

From its infancy, part of skateboarding has involved a rebel mystique, and we broke plenty of laws skating into the night, shadows cast long by streetlights flooding an empty parking lot with a waxed-up flower box.

What I wanted most, though, were places to skate without being swung at by store owners, hassled by cops or forced to sneak around strip malls like a cat burglar. Chester didn't even have sidewalks.

It wasn't until I left for college - and stopped skating - that I got my wish. Four nearby towns built parks, and other towns across the country followed suit.

This month, after a seven-year hiatus, I started skating again. Here in Central Ohio, cops and city councils have reasoned that it's cheaper to create a place to skate legally than to hang "No skateboarding" signs and arrest kids for exercising. Franklin and surrounding counties are now dotted with parks from Dublin to Grandview.

Here are a few places to rip.

Dodge Park

667 Sullivant Ave., Franklinton

614-645-3300

Web: recparks.columbus.gov

Concrete bowl and some rotating, non-permanent structures

The Flow

4252 Groves Rd., Whitehall

614-864-1610

Web: ridetheflow.com

A 40,000-square-foot indoor wooden park with pyramids, rails, pipes and boxes. Cost is $12.

Jesse Owens West Skate Park

Kenny and Carmack roads, Campus

614-292-7671

Web: recsports.osu.edu

Launch ramp, quarterpipe and picnic tables

Olentangy River Parklands

600 W. Wilson Bridge Rd., Worthington

614-436-2743

Web: worthington.org

Small concrete park with a bowl, rails, pyramid and quarterpipes

Westerville BMX/Skateboard Park

Shrock Road at Park Meadow Road

614-901-6500

Web: visitwesterville.org

Concrete skate area with pyramid, grind box, handrails and quarterpipes