The Transylvania Times -

Skate Park Effort Started - Brevard NC

 

September 3, 2018



Ask 9-year-old Davis Ashworth what he would give to make a skate park in Brevard a reality and his answer is emphatic and comes with a challenge.

“I want to give my allowance to help make the park,” said Ashworth, a Brevard Elementary School fourth-grader, who loves swimming and gymnastics almost as much as skateboarding.

“I think other kids should, too,” he said.

Building a public skate park in Brevard has been a perennial topic ever since Zero Gravity, a private indoor skate park, closed its doors in 2013, leaving a loyal following of young and adult skaters with few options beyond furtively skating in commercial parking lots or heading out of town to more skater-friendly communities.

“I remember thinking, this has been such a meaningful part my life, and I need to do something about that,” said George Peterson, 52, who had frequented Zero Gravity and felt responsible, as he watched young skaters face their loss.

“Kids just don’t have the power to advocate for themselves effectively, and they need us to remember how it felt when we didn’t have things that kept us out of trouble,” said Peterson, who is the father of two daughters, and owner of the Circle Factory art studio, which he moved to Brevard in 1998 from his native California.

Back in 2013, Peterson said, he found himself “in the same place and talking about the same thing” with a group of despairing high school students along with a few parents and other adult skaters.

Sk8Brevard was born as a senior project and began to collect signatures and lobby city government for a free and public skate park.

Though the group’s efforts didn’t result in a skate park right away, it prompted city leaders to place a skate park on a list of desired public amenities and led the Brevard City Council to include a site for a skate park as an approved use in the Tannery Park master plan when it was approved in 2017.

Aaron McGoldrick was 20 when Zero Gravity closed. He had landed his first job at the skate park four years earlier and worked for free time on the ramps. He remembers doing small side jobs to buy his first skateboard.

He is 25 now, manages a restaurant and is still an avid skater.

He remembers feeling lost when Zero Gravity closed and then feeling disappointed that he could do so little to convince others that a skate park in Brevard would be beneficial for adolescents, as well as the community in general.

He credits skating with teaching him social skills, discipline, grit and the importance of being supportive of others and oneself.

“If you don’t do it for yourself, you are never going to do it,” he said, adding “that was a pretty important lesson for a 16-year-old, and I learned that at the skate park.”

Jacob Dinkins, 40, who joined up with Peterson in May to form the Tannery Skate Park Task Force, couldn’t agree more. An avid skater and father of a 10-year-old boy, Dinkins remembers how it felt to have a skateboard, but no place to use it.

“One of the main reasons for me to do this is that I would have loved to have this kind of skate park in the town where I grew up. And I know there are 8-year-olds in Brevard who feel exactly the same way,” Dinkins said. “The difference is that now I can affect change, and I have the know-how to do it and that goes for all the parents, grandparents, business owners and people who love Brevard and want young people to thrive here.”

The city of Brevard’s Parks, Trails and Recreation Committee approved the conceptual plans for the project in mid-June and green-lighted the fundraising campaign for it.

The city will act as the treasurer of all funds collected and is donating the land for the project. Once built, the city will operate and maintain the facility.

“A public skate park would provide an additional opportunity for a safe, positive, healthy environment to socialize and foster community,” said Keenan Smith, a committee member, who voted in favor of the project. “We are very fortunate to have citizens and community leaders who are committed to the promotion and investment in projects like this that continue to make Brevard such a great place to work, live and play.”

As approved in concept, the Tannery Skate Park will feature two half-pipe ramps built from wood, exterior grade fasteners and skate-specific laminate materials. Both ramps will be 40 by 50 feet, one for beginner to intermediate skaters and the other for expert skaters.

The latter would lend itself for skate-related events.

As proposed, the skate park can be built for $97,000, instead of the estimated $400,000 a concrete version would cost. In-kind donations of $37,000 in the form of volunteer labor and professional services have already been secured, and two donors have joined the project with $10,000 donations each. Once the remaining $40,000 is raised, the project can be built within a two-month building window, Dinkins said.

“It is important to have outdoor spaces that kids can call their own, and the construction of the skate ramps will fill a much-needed void for adolescents in Brevard to get outside and skateboard,” said Sarah Leavitt, director of operations and programs for the Can’d Aid Foundation.

Their mission to spread people powered “do-goodery” is a perfect match for the hands-on nature of this project and Can’d Aid will be spearheading a community-wide work day in support of the project.

The Brevard ABC Board contributed $10,000 from its underage alcohol education prevention fund, with the intent to use the site for youth outreach and to support efforts that aim to keep young people safe and healthy.

A “Decorate A Deck” event to raise awareness and funds is scheduled for Sept. 15. The task force hopes to wrap up fund raising by October.

The Tannery Park location is ideal, said Dinkins, who, along with city officials, investigated three possible sites before settling on the current location at the intersection of Silversteen Drive and McMinn Avenue.

“The Tannery Park property was a great purchase for our community, and to be the first focal point in a park that is going to be a great amenity for Brevard five years down the line, is truly exciting,” he said, adding, “We were looking for high visibility because skating is as much a spectator sport as anything, and we don’t want this venue to be hidden away.”

Once the city has developed the entire park property, the skate park will be located right next to the extension of the recreation path, as it bisects the 24-acre property.

Mark Connelley, a local landscape architect who joined the task force and has lent his expertise free of charge, has designed the skate ramps to be encircled by a permeable path so law enforcement officers can police the site from all angles from their vehicles.

Other features include bleacher seating, a water fountain, parking and lawn seating facing a ramp wall for outdoor movie events.

“The design has been carefully considered with crime prevention and sensitivity to the neighbors as a primary concern,” said Brevard Police Chief Phil Harris, adding that he met with the task force in mid-July to review the proposal.

“I believe (the task force) has done an excellent job, and I look forward to having another great option for our young citizens to exercise and entertain,” he said.

Dinkins said he is confident this proposal will clear all fundraising and procedural hurdles and become a blueprint for how quality-of-life projects can be funded when city funds don’t extend as far as the wish list. “This is a people-powered project from beginning to end,” he said. “It doesn’t get anymore grassroots than this.”

For more information, go to http://www.tanneryskate.com, or call (828) 884-2200.

Tannery Skate Park is also on Instagram @tanneryskateparkbrevard. All donations may be made directly to the city and are tax deductible.

Checks need to say “skate park donation” in the memo line and can be dropped off at city hall, or mailed to City of Brevard, 95 W. Main St. Brevard, NC 28712.

 
 

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