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WHEELS IN MOTION FOR SKATEBOARD PARK

by Daniel Schere

Plans for a permanent skatepark in Winston-Salem appear to be in the works says Assistant City Manager Evan Raleigh.

Raleigh said that the skatepark is part of a master plan for the fairgrounds, and the city is currently hashing out the details with a consulting firm. He thinks the existing infrastructure on the fairgrounds site makes this location ideal.

“It’s a nice central location; there’s obviously sufficient parking; there are a lot of amenities that if you locate a skatepark there that you don’t have to provide if you go with an undeveloped site somewhere else,” he said.

Raleigh said he was not sure what the cost of the project would be, but they will get a report from the consulting firm in a couple months. He anticipates it will be affordable to the city.

“That (cost) would vary considerably based on the size of the park and what kind of amenities you want to put in the park,” he said. “I think it’s too early to be able know what the budget for the park will be because it’s contingent on the types of features that you have.”

Skateboarding in Winston-Salem has become more visible over the past couple of years due to petitions from the skateboarding community to build a park. Last summer, the city operated a temporary skatepark at the fairgrounds, which was relatively successful. In the fall, tenants in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter complained about skateboarders grind ing on railings and benches and leaving skid marks behind.

Raleigh said he hopes a permanent skatepark will ultimately encourage skateboarders on the street to come to the city’s facility. Skateboarding is currently banned in the city’s Central Business District but not the Central Industrial District.

Parks and Recreation Director Tim Grant said he was not sure of the project’s timeline, but he thinks the park will be popular if and when it opens.

“I do think we need some options for skateboarders,” he said. “I think you have to end up building or starting with a skatepark that has the potential to grow and also has the potential to offer different options for skateboarders.”

Derek Fry, who works at Exodus Skate Shop on Silas Creek Parkway, said he has been skateboarding for ten years and often uses a ramp in his backyard to skate. He agrees that a permanent skateboard park would serve an important purpose.

“I think it would get a lot of use,” he said. “I mean there’s definitely the demand for it, and there’s a lot of kids who skateboard around here.”

Colin Snoke, who also works at Exodus, has been skateboarding for 11 years and often goes downtown for recreation.

“Downtown they’re not but if you’re outside of the business district they usually don’t bother you,” he said.

Snoke said many in Winston-Salem don’t realize that there are more people that skateboard than play traditional sports such as baseball and basketball “” a misconception that he thinks gives skateboarding a bad name.

“What people don’t realize is it’s been this way for 10 years or so, but there are more skateboarders around here than baseball players, basketball players and that kind of stuff,” he said. “A lot of parents don’t want to just drop their kids off to go street skating downtown, so they’ll give kids a safe place to skate. It’ll keep people off the street. It’ll keep property from being damaged. It’ll help out a lot and be a positive thing for the community.”

The lack of support for skateboarders is something that Shannon Duke, the co-owner of K-Vegas Skate Shop in Kernersville, thinks is the reason that there are not more places to legally skate in the Triad. Fourth of July park in Kernersville is currently the only free skatepark.

“The problem with skate parks is there’s not enough people backing them, and by people I mean positive influences and skate shops and stuff like that,” she said.

Duke commended the Kernersville Parks and Recreation department for their efforts to recognize the positive impact of skateboarding in the community.

“We have a very positive atmosphere in our town,” she said. “We don’t have issues; we don’t have drama with skateboarders and stuff like that.”

Duke, now in her 40s, no longer skateboards but says some of the former skateboarders like her are getting involved in the push to help change the minds of people who are opposed to the idea. She said business owners need to understand that skateboarding is not the nuisance that it seems to commercial areas.

“The problem is the mentality,” she said. “Business owners, which obviously I’m a business owner, are like we don’t like the damage and stuff like that. You’re going to have damage from bikes. You’re going to have damage from skateboarders. You’re going to have damage from scooters. You’re going to have damage from people who don’t know how to drive. You’re always going to have some kind of damage. Give them somewhere to go. And give the skateboarders somewhere to go that is strictly for skateboarders. Don’t make it a multi-use park.”

Duke said that her experiences with skateboarding in North Carolina for the past four and a half years have been much different from her time growing up in Florida, where she says the sport was looked at as a cultural practice rather than simply a sport.

“When you’re talking about California and Florida, that’s where skateboarding grew up,” she said. !

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