“It’s a nice park. And if you build a good park, there will be an influx of skaters from all over,” said Drew Lindley, who drove nearly two hours from Lenoir to put the concrete playground through the paces on Monday.
The skate park is attracting the masses in part due to its newness. That will taper off some, but Waynesville has already earned a name on the skate park circuit, said Lindley, who owns a skate shop in Lenoir called the Main Boardshop.
“This is a very well-built park for a small town,” said Rob Masiello, a skateboarder from Asheville.
It was his second trip to Waynesville in a week — one that he plans to keep making. Other than a skate park in Asheville, the next closest are in Cherokee and Hendersonville.
While the Waynesville skate park has been dominated by out-of-town skaters, a few locals can usually be found in the mix.
“It is great, really lovely,” said Austin Fore, 26, who lives in Clyde and sheers alpacas for a living. “We have been waiting for this.”
Indeed, the road to the skate park has been a long one — mostly due to the price tag. Waynesville town leaders have talked about a skate park in theory for years. Fund raising moved at a snail’s pace, however, so last year the town board got up the gumption to fund its construction and make it a reality.
The town put in about $300,000 for the skate park. The remaining nearly $100,000 came from fund raising and grants from the N.C. Park and Recreation Trust Fund, the Waynesville Kiwanis Club, Pepsi and the Tony Hawk Foundation, among others.
The skate park adds to the already diverse offerings along Waynesville’s sprawling Richland Creek recreation complex — which includes disc golf, tennis, softball and soccer fields, a paved track, a greenway, fishing, a playground, a dog park, outdoor basketball, and an indoor swimming pool and fitness center.
The bleachers at the skate park usually have a smattering of curious spectators. Some skateboarders populating the park certainly look the part. Many are bedecked in tattoos with sagging shorts. Some skate shirtless, revealing nipple piercings here and there. Some are smokers, but don’t limit the habit to the sidelines and instead skate the concrete ramps with cigarettes hanging from their mouths.
Many of the skateboarders were quick to condemn the negative stereotypes and questionable behavior. Far from being a negative influence, Justin “Barbarian” Putnam said skating turned his life around.
“Ever since I started skating, I’ve been out of trouble for years. It gave me something to do,” Putnam said. “It helps keep a lot of people out of trouble.”
That was a stated goal of town leaders when they decided to fund the skate park. They hoped it would be a recreation outlet for local kids. Although so far, most skaters at the park are in their 20s or young 30s.
Skaters said if younger kids do show up, they are quick to make room for them and help them feel welcome. Monday afternoon, two local elementary-aged brothers from Waynesville cautiously eyed the bustling skateboard park from the sidelines as their dad suited them up in helmets and knee-pads.
They were soon testing out the park’s easier ramps under the tutelage of an older skater who volunteered to teach them some moves.
An official ribbon cutting ceremony for the new 8,000-square-foot Waynesville Skate Park will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27. The free skate park is located off Vance Street.