Skatepark Plans

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 27, 2009

Plans for skatepark have Plan B option

By Emily Williams

A group of local parents and youngsters has worked for more than two years toward building a public skateboarding park in Batesville, with hopes it would increase recreational opportunities for young people in Batesville as a similar facility has in Oxford.

The Batesville Skatepark Committee has raised over $5,000 with donations, bake sales, t-shirt sales, skateboarding demonstrations and other events.  Committee members initially received positive response from Batesville’s board of aldermen after a group of young skateboarders first appeared at a city board meeting in the fall of 2006 bearing a petition requesting that the city build a skatepark.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Aldermen subsequently budgeted $25,000 for the park for the past two years.

What has not been clear is where the park would be located if additional funding can be obtained.

Initially, the cost for a concrete bowl-type structure was estimated at about $150,000.

At last week’s meeting of the Skatepark Committee, president Emily Griste said the group would be willing to downsize their plans if it meant they could get started this summer.

“We can build a good street portion and we won’t worry about the bowl yet,” she said.

A”street portion” would include rails, stairs, kickers (launch ramps), quarter pipe and a fun box.

Griste also said she would make application again this year for a grant from a foundation operated by skateboarding superstar Tony Hawk.

“I have high hopes about the Tony Hawk grant,” she added.

The Tony Hawk grant could be for as much as  $25,000.

In Oxford, where a skatepark was built by the city in 2006, Mayor Richard Howorth said “I think everyone has been shocked at how many people use the facility.

“People who are skeptical of the value of a skatepark need to understand it functions the same as other parks, like baseball and soccer. It’s a different kind of amenity, primarily for skateboarders. Skateboarding is the fastest growing non-team sport in America,” he said.

“We haven’t received any complaints from the neighborhood people,” Howorth said, referring to residents of the area around the Oxford Library and Avent Park where the Oxford Skatepark is located.

The facility includes a 10,000-square-foot concrete bowl and was constructed with funding from two large grants and donations from civic groups. It cost about $150,000.

“The only problems we ever had were with kids hanging in the parking lot who don’t skate and were not using the park for the intended purpose and the skaters don’t appreciate that,” Howorth said.

Mayor Howorth recalled that before the skatepark was built, the city had problems with skaters on the square and getting in the way of pedestrians.

“Now that they have their own place we don’t have that problem,” he said.

“We have a jungle gym for the younger kids next to the skatepark, so it’s a family-friendly environment,” he added.

The skatepark did not significantly increase the cost of the city’s liability insurance, he said.

“The insurance is the same as any other public facility.”

As for increased risks of injury to those who take up the sport, Howorth commented that statistics show more people are injured playing football than skating.

Chief Mike Martin of the Oxford Police Department said officers patrol the park twice an hour and sometimes four times an hour.

“If you build one you have to patrol it,” Martin said.

“The only problem we had is the vandalism. The skaters didn’t do it because it’s their park,” he said.

“I suggest video surveillance,” he added.

Chief Martin said a skatepark needs to be located where kids can be seen from the road.

“It’s easier to patrol when we can see them from the road.”

The Batesville group has volunteers who would build the park with the help of a professional skatepark builder who helped with the construction of the facility in Oxford.

David Wattigny, 35, has helped design and build parks in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Okla. and in Pascagoula.

Mayor Jerry Autrey said this week he is ready to get the project started as soon as possible.

 “We are asking approval from the board for money from the general fund,” he said.