Early morning on Feb. 8, a lone bulldozer crushed the curves and edges of a local skatepark known as Wasteland. Born from the rubble of a paper recycling center, the six-month-old concrete park was largely the result of efforts by local skaters and generous donations from a local concrete contractor.
Located between Braswell and Milford streets in The Neck, the park was built on property that is part of the Magnolia Company's holdings in the area. The skaters did not have official permission to build on the site, but faced no opposition from local development crews and police.
According to skater Bob Hart, "We knew it was going to happen eventually, but we thought they'd give us some kind of countdown."
The Magnolia Company ordered the park's destruction out of safety concerns. "We were compelled to keep people off of our property and out of harm's way," said Magnolia spokesperson Jonathan Scott. Scott also cited environmental concerns, noting that the environmental clean-up of the once-industrial site is ongoing and the particular area where the skate park was constructed is still contaminated.
The park had humble beginnings as stacks of cinder blocks that local skaters arranged to skate on. The first bags of concrete were bought with their own money and were mixed in buckets. They swept and cleaned the area. Word spread that a new spot had been born.
Marty Swain, manager of Parker Marine Contracting, drove by the site and saw the skaters mixing and pouring their own concrete. He stopped by to ask them what they were doing and found that they were using their own money to build the park. Swain oversees the manufacturing of large concrete piles that are the foundation for many buildings under construction in Charleston. When the piles are created, there is always a little extra concrete left over. Usually, Swain dumps the concrete in a box next to the facility and has it hauled off as junk.
Over the next few months, trucks began to show up at the site to pour some of that excess concrete over the artfully arranged piles of rubble, according to local skater and artist Jon Horne. After hundreds of hours of work by local skaters who shaped and polished the surface, a skatepark came into form and continued to grow as the trucks kept coming. The result was a fairly large complex of curves and obstacles that became a draw for skateboarders from around the region.
The skaters honed their concrete-shaping skills as they went along, and their progression could be seen in the smoothness and refinement of the surface. They got pointers from builders from Grindline, a national company that builds large concrete skateparks.
Swain, for one, was impressed. "Building it was a very communal activity and a positive thing for young people to do. You had a little bit of sweat and a little bit of fun," he says.
The park's presence also had a direct effect on crime in the area. "We used to look out the window and see prostitutes going at it in cars at the end of the road. After the park got built, they disappeared," says Swain.
As one of Charleston's few skateparks, Wasteland was visited by skaters of all types, including many families. Mary Chris Garner says she had some great times at Wasteland with her son, Boone.
"I even went by myself even if no one was out there. Beautiful sunsets and post-apocalyptic scenery were meant for each other," she says.
The skaters plan to rebuild on another site and are searching for something more permanent, possibly an abandoned basketball court in the Rosemont neighborhood.
Until then, the sting of the loss is still felt sharply. "It was everyone's favorite spot. It's what we needed. We're all heartbroken over it. It's gone now and that sucks," says Horne.