FEATURE ‌ In Search of Ramps and Rails 

Reasonable, organized skaters lobby city for concrete park

If you build it, they will come. It's a Kevin Costner movie kind of idea that could work to alleviate tensions between the city and the skateboarding population.

Build a skate park and skateboarders won't be able to use the popular rebuttal, "If your city doesn't have a skate park, the city is your skate park."

There are over 850 concrete skate parks scattered throughout the nation. South Carolina has none, and a local nonprofit organization called Pour It Now has been trying to change that statistic long before Post and Courier got their hands on the video of Pfc. Willie Simmons pushing Corey Dowds into the bushes as he illegally skated around Waterfront Park almost a year ago.

Since November the likes of taxpaying, skateboarding, home-owning citizens Shannon Smith, Aaron Allen, and Ryan Cockrell have been seeking the city's support for a downtown state-of-the-art concrete skate park by going to City Council meetings and speaking out.

They all agree that the only positive repercussion from the P&C video was that the need for a better, bigger skate park in Charleston was thrust before the public eye via Diane Sawyer.

Contrary to what Dowds told the blonde anchor, Charleston does have three skate parks, but only one is free.

The West Ashley skate park is a valiant effort on behalf of the city, but Allen says, simply, the park sucks.

"It was pointless the day it was built."

The Ackerman Park was thrown together quickly, Allen says. Cockrell says it's in poor condition, rusting, and falling apart. Glad it was built, he says the park proves something bigger and better is needed.

District 10 council member Larry Shirley was a part of the board who created the West Ashley skate ramp with the budget and information his board had. The park is small, but usable, he says. It was one small step for skateboarders, and Shirley is backing Pour It Now with its concrete skate park endeavor. He has never skated before, but he thinks the park would boost city morale and reap financial benefits.

A city ordinance written in 1975 states, "No person shall skate on any roadway or sidewalk, except those areas designated as skating zones by the department of traffic and transportation." About 30 skaters marched down Meeting Street on Saturday to protest the law, calling for its removal.

Cockrell says that most of these local skaters have probably never seen a real skate park.

Back in the 1980s Allen says he was a skate punk. He got searched by cops. His boards were broken and confiscated, but he wasn't a degenerate. He says he never really drank, did drugs, or chased after chicks because he was too concerned with skating. He was a good kid because he had his board.

"Live to skate, skate to live," is what he says this "non" sport is all about. He doesn't compare it to playing baseball or soccer, even though he points out there are plenty of those facilities around Charleston. Skating is what it is, and not all the kids around town are doing bad things, he says. Providing a skate park wouldn't just benefit teenage kids who tear up property.

As a 31-year-old who still skates and now owns real estate, Allen is aware that skateboarders damage property when they grind rails, ledges, and the side of sidewalks.

Department of Recreation Director Laurie Yarbrough knows there's a need for a park for skateboarders. She says Charleston isn't a city that shuts down at 5 p.m. There are all kinds of people and needs to accommodate. She traveled to St. Augustine recently to check out its skate park and she was impressed.

She says the city is interested and appreciates that the Pour It Now crew is willing to raise almost $450,000 on its own in hopes that the city will match funding to see the potential city-run and managed skate park materialize. She says when the community is behind a project from the beginning to the final product, the end result is always better.

Allen says his group is a pen swipe away from acquiring a skate park haven, which City Parks Director of Operations Matt Compton says should probably be located away from downtown residential districts somewhere above Mt. Pleasant Street and east of King Street. In a month or so a piece of land should be obtained, he says.

It costs $25-30 per square foot to build a concrete skate park, and land needs to be acquired before PIN can begin sending out grant proposals, but they plan on using their musician, artist, and young professional networks to hold a benefit concert at Cumberland's sometime soon.

Cockrell wants to build a 20,000-square-foot concrete park that would resemble Charleston's charm with skate-able art, lots of greenery, and benches. He wants a concrete park that's 60 percent street skating with rails to grind and 40 percent transitional with pool-like features. Google "skate parks" to understand what can be built in a city like Charleston, Allen says.

Pays for Itself

In Louisville, Ky., they built a $2.5 million dollar skate park centrally located downtown. The 40,000-square-foot outdoor concrete skating surface with a 24-foot full-pipe and a wooden half-pipe ramp is open to skateboarders, in-line skaters, and bikers 24 hours a day. In its first year the Louisville Extreme Park hosted the Tony Hawk Gigantic Skatepark Tour, which set a tour record with almost 10,000 spectators, a small number compared to the crowd Charleston brought in for the Wildlife Exposition.

The Extreme Park also brought X-Games and the Dew Tour competitions, garnering millions of tourism dollars for Louisville. Shirley, Smith, Allen, and Cockrell all agree a skate park draw in more tourists and events in Charleston.

The Pour It Now crew says if it's planned and executed properly, the skate park could potentially pay back the city for damage skaters have done to the historic streets of Charleston proper. Give the skaters somewhere to go and they won't have a legitimate excuse for skating on streets, looking for the next best rail to grind, Shirley says.

Because of the West Ashley public skate park, Shirley says the city already knows the legalities and liabilities of running a skateboarding venue. That "i" is already dotted. Finding monetary and city support, and, first, a place to call home, is the next phase in generating the skate park.

Pour It Now doesn't know how long it will take for the skate park to come together, but they're in it for the long haul.


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