Skaters find their groove at Waynesville’s new concrete playground

Skateboarders from across Western North Carolina have streamed into Waynesville during the past week to try out the town’s newly opened $400,000 skate park.

Construction ramps up on skate park in hopes of August opening

fr skateparkConstruction on an 8,000-square-foot Waynesville skate park is visibly progressing.

Waynesville skateboard park to ramp up by summer

fr skateparkAfter years of stops and starts, construction is now imminent on a long-awaited skateboard park in Waynesville.

Skate park dream revived with pledge from town

Waynesville leaders have committed to foot the bill for the long-held dream of a skateboard park — and it will receive help from an unexpected place.

After years of pinning their hopes on grants and private fundraising that only partially materialized, town leaders have now decided they must move forward with the construction of a public skate park or kill the idea all together. The town board discussed what to do about the skate park at a daylong annual planning session last week. And, fortunately for local skateboarders, the town has said it will fund the project no matter what.

“I sort of like the idea of being able to hang our hat on (the skate park investment),” said Alderman Wells Greeley. “We are going to have parents who will bring their kids over to Waynesville for the day. This falls in the category of what I call good growth.”

Alderman Gary Caldwell has been advocating for a skateboard park for 15 years and was the most vocal board member when discussing the skate park last week.

“I know I am asking a lot,” Caldwell said. But, Caldwell said he wouldn’t stop lobbying for it.

“It’s not a dying issue,” he said.

Plans for the park continually stalled during the past decade as the town struggled to find financing for the project.

“I think it’s something that has been wavering too long,” said Alderwoman Julia Freeman.

Freeman said the town should support projects that benefit kids and get them active.

That’s exactly what the town did in 2010, when it put up $30,000 to hire a consultant to design a skate park in collaboration with ideas from local skateboarders.

The price tag to build a skate park was pegged at $325,000. The town has amassed almost $137,000 toward the cost: a $60,000 grant from the N.C. Parks and Rec Trust Fund, a $20,000 grant from the Waynesville Kiwanis Club and another $40,000 committed by the town itself.

With blueprints for a skate park in hand, the town hoped it would kick-start fundraising, but only $5,000 in private donations has been raised in the past year.

That leaves the town $190,000 short to fund the project.

If the town continues to postpone the project, the cost will inevitably increase with inflation.

“The longer the delay, the higher the price — for the same thing,” said Alderman LeRoy Robinson.

A facilitator from the Southwestern Commission who was running the town’s planning meeting tossed out the idea of scaling back the project and thereby reducing the cost. But, town board members did not seem receptive to that idea.

“If you scale it back, you are going to reduce the challenge, and that is part of the draw of something like this,” Robinson said. “If they don’t feel it is a challenge, they will be back on the street.”

Skateboarding on town sidewalks and most streets is illegal, and violators could be fined $50 or, even worse, have their board taken away. But, that doesn’t mean kids aren’t doing so when no one is watching.

“That has been a major issue,” Caldwell said. “It’s a nuisance.”

The park will give those kids a free place within walking distance of downtown to skateboard legally.

The design for the skate park, developed by Spohn Ranch Skateparks from California, includes bleachers for spectators, at least four ramps and a raised platform with rails, among other features.

“To be honest with you, I’ve been trying to do this forever and ever, but I never envisioned it to look like this. This is amazing,” Caldwell said.

Although the town is building the skate park, it will not staff it, limiting its liability in the event of an accident. Once the park is complete, the town could host competitions there, which would draw visitors and their checkbooks.

 

As luck would have it, money materializes

As the Waynesville town board grappled with where it would find $190,000 to fund the remaining balance of a skateboard park, it realized somewhat accidentally it was staring a new source of revenue in the face.

At the same meeting where the skate park was discussed last week, the town also took up the issue of whether to start charging fees for controversial sweepstakes machines as several other towns in the region do.

The board agreed in an epiphany moment that recreation would be an appropriate use the new income.

It would likely not be enough to fund all that is needed, however. Maggie Valley and Canton currently tax the sweepstakes machines in their respective towns. Maggie collects $8,250 a year, while Canton rakes in nearly $32,000 each year.

Parents urge commissioners to build skateboard park in Jackson

On Tuesday evening, 11-year-old Ronnie Patterson said goodbye to his home away from home.

Patterson is a skateboarder, and for the past year he’s spent nearly every afternoon at the Disciples Youth Center skate park on U.S. 441 in Jackson County.

Now the center’s creator, Jeff Kelly, said he’s been forced to close its doors because he can’t continue to pay the rent out of pocket.

Kelly started the center as a non-denominational youth ministry to offer an alternative environment for kids who didn’t participate in team sports.

“We knew how much time we had,” Kelly said. “We did it because we saw the need was there, and in the bigger picture, maybe the county would see it was a good thing for the community.”

Kelly, Ronnie’s father Jack and Doug Nickel attended a Jackson County board meeting this week to urge the commissioners to appropriate funds for a county skate park.

Nickel, who spent 20 years in law enforcement, currently runs a skate ministry in Franklin called The Walk. He told the commissioners how the image of skateboarders as law-breakers and punks is a stigma that adults need to leave behind.

“A lot of these kids have completely turned their lives around,” Nickel said. “I am not a bleeding heart, but I am a reformed skater hater.”

Kelly hopes the county will act on his suggestion quickly. He has offered to donate the ramps from his skate center and organize the volunteer effort to staff the park, as long as the county can provide a space and the necessary insurance.

“We’re willing to do whatever it takes so it doesn’t really cost the county anything,” Kelly said. “We’d love to do something quick, because we’ve got the ramps.”

Kelly said he had spoken to county parks and recreation staff about the possibility of building a skate park at Mark Watson Park immediately while plans for a larger park with a permanent home are in the works.

County Commissioner Chairman Brian McMahan responded positively to the group’s pleas, recounting a story of visiting an impressive municipal skate park in Syracuse, N.Y.

“I think it’s a great idea, and I look forward to working with our recreation department to get this on the county’s master plan,” McMahan said.

The positive reaction was music to Ronnie Patterson’s ears. The Scott’s Creek Elementary School student summoned his courage to address the county commissioners on his own terms, telling them a story about losing a friendship before the skate park helped him find his way to positivity.

“This park has been a good community for everyone that’s gone to it, and everyone there would hate to see it go away,” Ronnie said.

His father, who has six other children, seconded the emotion.

“Having a place for these kids to go in Jackson County would be a big benefit for a lot of young people,” Jack said.

The Town of Waynesville has been working toward an outdoor skate park for more than a decade. The skate park is currently in the design stage, but the road to get there has been long and costly.

So far, the town has spent $28,500 simply to create a plan. The cost of building the park on land the town already owns will fall between $275,000 and $325,000.

Meanwhile the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has plans to replace its existing skate park in Yellowhill with a state-of-the-art facility on a 3.5-acre tract just up the road.

Tribal Council approved up to $600,000 in funding for the project, which is now in the design phase and could be completed by early next year.

Grant propels Waynesville skate park, but the price tag is still daunting

Ten-year-old Waynesville resident Zeb Powell has exclusive, 24-7 access to a skate park in town — it’s in his driveway.

Powell got hold of a half-pipe, rails and multiple ramps when the indoor BP Skate Park closed down last fall. But as it turns out, having a park to yourself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“He loves doing it with other people,” said his mother, Val Powell. “By himself, it’s just not as much fun.”

Zeb is one of many skateboarders in Waynesville waiting for the long-promised public skate park on Vance Street, near the Waynesville Recreation Center.

For now, skaters still have to deal with a town ban on skateboards on sidewalks and most town streets. Violators face a $50 fine and the possibility of having their boards confiscated.

The proposed fenced-in outdoor park will cost somewhere between $275,000 to $325,000 to construct. So far, the town has lined up $120,000 to devote to the project.

Included in that total is a $60,000 state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant Waynesville recently received, plus a $20,000 grant from the Waynesville Kiwanis Club. The rest comes from town funds.

With the idea of a skate park stalled for more than a decade, the state grant eluded the town when it first applied in 2009. To boost its chances of winning the coveted grant in the next cycle, the town dipped into its own coffers to fund a design plan for the park — hoping to prove it was dedicated to the idea. The plan worked.

Waynesville hired California firm Spohn Ranch Skateparks to lead the project earlier this year. In March, the firm held a public input meeting with local skaters to help shape the look of the park. The firm will present three potential designs at an online meeting next week.

Recreation Director Rhett Langston says he sees a parallel between skate parks and golf courses. Each should have its own unique character and offer different elements from those facilities nearby. With skate parks relatively close in Asheville and Hendersonville, Waynesville’s recreation department wants to offer something else with its park.

“We want ours to be as nice but also different,” Langston said. “So all skaters can go from one location to another.”

Right now, Waynesville parent Joe Moore said he’ll be thrilled to see any kind of skate park.

“I wish there was more money to make it happen immediately,” Moore said. “The wheels of bureaucracy always move too slow.”

Moore wholly supports the project, though, and is happy the park will have no entry fee. He says he’s not worried about the park being unsupervised by town staff.

“Most parents are not going to drop off their 7- to 12-year-old to skateboard and run errands,” said Moore.

Though Moore originally preferred an indoor park, he would now love to see an outdoor facility with a roof overhead to protect skaters like his son Dylan from wet and snowy weather. He also suggests wooden ramps rather than those made of concrete.

“Skateboarders like to see things change,” said Moore. “Concrete, once it’s poured, it’s always going to stay the same.”

Most skaters who attended the first public meeting supported a hybrid of a bowl and a street park with ramps, rails, stairs and more, Langston said.

Langston, who has been instrumental in moving the skate park forward, was himself a skater in his youth. But that was before the rise of skate parks nationwide.

“We would just fly down the hill in our neighborhood,” said Langston. “We just made do with what we had.”

 

Donate

The Waynesville Recreation Department is selling bricks with personalized messages for a walkway leading up to the park. So far, skaters have raised about $3,000.

Those interested in purchasing one brick for $50 or two for $75, making a donation, or volunteering should contact Rhett Langston at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.456.2030.

Waynesville moves on skate park

Skateboard enthusiasts in Waynesville will be happy to hear the town has been busily preparing for a long-awaited skate park on Vance Street near the recreation center.

The town board recently dropped $28,500 on a California firm called Spohn Ranch Skateparks to design the park, marking notable progress in a process that’s crawled for more than a decade.

The board unanimously agreed it was time to move forward.

“We beat this horse about as much as we can beat it,” said Mayor Gavin Brown.

“I think this is a giant step forward in reaching our goal,” said Rhett Langston, Waynesville’s recreation director.

The town is also applying for a $60,000 state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant to help fund construction.

While the town failed to lock in the same state grant last year, having a concrete design plan in hand might improve their chances this go-around.

“To have this plan in place to show them you really are enthused about doing it, I think it will be help us with the grant,” said Alderman Gary Caldwell, the most ardent supporter of the skate park on the town board.

Even if the town lands the grant, it still faces the challenge of scraping up an equal amount in matching funds and paying for the remainder of the cost.

The town will learn in early May if it has won the coveted grant.

Langston said it is difficult right now to even speculate on the total cost of the skate park. After hiring the design firm, the town has $41,500 remaining of the original $70,000 set aside for the park. It also holds a generous $20,000 grant from the Waynesville Kiwanis Club.

To supplement that sum, the recreation department continues to fundraise by selling bricks with personalized messages for a walkway leading up to the park. So far, they’ve raised $2,900.

Having a conceptual design plan in hand could also aid fundraising efforts, according to town officials.

“If you just tell someone, ‘We want to build a skate park. Will you donate?’ they might. But if you show them, ‘This is what we want to build,’ your chances of getting participation may be a lot better,” said Lee Galloway, Waynesville town manager.

“Local skaters will have something in their hands to show this is what we’re looking for, this is the cause,” said Langston.

The town considers it absolutely essential that skaters throw their two cents in, since it doesn’t want to invest in a skate park that they didn’t like.

“If we’re going to do it, let’s just do it right from the beginning,” said Langston.

 

More on the park

The Waynesville Kiwanis and Parks and Recreation Skate Park will be located in a fenced-in, outdoor facility on the site of the former horse ring on Vance Street. It will join the sprawling town recreation complex along Richland Creek, where playgrounds, tennis courts, picnic shelters, ball fields, a greenway, a dog park, a track, and the Waynesville Recreation Center are clustered.

The park would be free to use, but skaters would be required to pay a small registration fee so the Parks and Recreation Department can keep track of who is using the facility.

For now, skaters still have to deal with a town ban on skateboards on sidewalks and most town streets. Violators face a $50 fine and the possibility of having their boards confiscated.

Those interested in purchasing a brick, making a donation, or volunteering for the fundraising committee are asked to contact Langston at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.456.2030.

Fundraising ramps up for Waynesville skate park

By Andre A. Rodriguez • Special to the Smoky Mountain News

It’s been at least a dozen years since Waynesville’s leaders began contemplating a public skate board park to provide a safe alternative to illegal skating on streets and parking lots.

The town bans skateboarding on sidewalks and most town streets. Violaters face a $50 fine and the possibility of having their boards confiscated.

But it doesn’t always stop them, whether it’s risking a stealth nighttime run through the town’s six-story parking deck or staging a mass ride down the middle of Main Street, as was the case in a rare display of public disobedience by young skaters a couple of years ago.

Waynesville Alderman Gary Caldwell, a long-time advocate of a town skate park, sees skaters taking up their sport wherever they can, often in private parking lots.

“The other day I was taking my mom for a stroll at the Brian Center on the outside, and I saw little guys over at Garrett Funeral Home’s extra parking lot skating and jumping up on that rail,” said Caldwell. “We’ve got to make [a skate park] happen soon.”

The town set aside $70,000 toward the park a dozen years ago and are now waiting to hear if they will be awarded a matching $70,000 grant from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and town Parks and Recreation Department, Director Rhett Langston said.

Langston said he hopes he has good news to deliver about the grant soon, but the General Assembly’s delay in approving a budget has also delayed the grant process. The grant was tentatively scheduled to be awarded in July, but the date has been pushed back to at least Aug. 21, Langston said.

“It’s going to be stiff competition, more so than usual,” Langston said, citing the state budget crunch.

 

Park plans

Plans for the skate park call for a fenced-in, outdoor facility on the site of the former horse ring on Vance Street. It will join the sprawling town recreation complex along Richland Creek, where playgrounds, tennis courts, picnic shelters, ball fields, a greenway, a dog park, a track, and the Waynesville Recreation Center are clustered.

The park would be free to use, but skaters would be required to pay a small registration fee so the Parks and Recreation Department can keep track of who is using the facility. The town would maintain the facility, Caldwell said, but “I think it’ll be well maintained and taken care of by [the skaters]. I think that they’ll respect it and take very, very good care of it themselves.”

Skateboarders will be required to wear helmets, and knee and elbow pads, unlike at BP Skate Park in Balsam, where many area boarders go to skate, particularly on inclement weather days since BP is an indoor facility.

The topic was an issue of contention during a public opinion meeting held in March 2008. Many experienced skaters said they don’t like skating in full pads because the pads limit motion and can be uncomfortable while skating on hot days.

Langston said there is no wiggle room for the full pads requirement, which is mandated by state law. He said he’s spoken with other municipal skate park operators who have said people still come to skate despite the requirement they be fully padded.

 

Brick by brick

While Langston awaits word on the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, he announced that the Waynesville Kiwanis gave a $20,000 grant to the project. The park will be named the Waynesville Kiwanis and Parks and Recreation Skate Park, he said.

As families return from summer vacations and school gets cranking again, the fundraising effort is expected to kick into high gear. Langston said he plans to hold a fundraising meeting in mid-September. In the meantime, the town is selling bricks that will be used for a walkway leading to the park’s entrance. The four-inch by eight inch bricks can contain up to three lines of personalized text with 20 characters per line per brick. The bricks can be purchased for $50 each or two for $75. Langston did not have a total for the brick sale but did say sales were going “very well.”

“That’s been an ongoing event, and so far we‘ve been very pleased with it,” he said. “We’re trying to take that idea and get more aggressive.”

Langston said he hopes to get more young people involved in the fundraising effort since they’re the ones who will benefit from the project. The park is also looking for individual donors and corporate sponsors, who can get their name permanently placed on a dedication sign at the park.

Those interested in purchasing a brick, making a donation, or volunteering for the fundraising committee are asked to contact Langston at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.456.2030.

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