The recent release of a conceptual design for Gainesville’s first skateboarding park brings construction of the long-awaited project one step closer to fruition.
And though the design has been met with mostly positive reviews from local youth, old-school skaters and other “stakeholders” who spoke with The Times, there is still an opportunity to make changes that some would like to see.
Michael Graham, deputy director of the city’s parks and recreation department, said the hope is “to finalize the concept soon and then get an updated estimate of probable cost for the construction.”
A plan to break ground on the project in July still remains the “ideal situation,” Graham added.
The parks department will build the approximately 20,000-square-foot skate park at the intersection of Pine and High streets in the midtown section of the city.
Wally Hollyday, a California-based skate park designer, created the design that Lose Design of Lawrenceville will use for construction.
The project is meant to incorporate drops, rails, pipes, ramps, bowls and other elements that define both park and street-style skating.
“This park really reflects the street-skating style and identity of our skaters,” said resident Fred LaValley, who participated in public input meetings on the project earlier this fall. “The design team’s approach to letting us be part of designing it is ingenious, and allows the park to be unique. Skaters will be coming from miles around to skate here. A lot of us are still in near disbelief that it’s really happening.”
Indeed, the push to develop a skate park is years in the making and became one of the most requested facilities in the parks department’s master plan.
Jasen Spinks, a teacher at Sardis Enrichment School in Hall County, spearheaded a petition that garnered about 1,700 signatures from local residents supporting the construction of a skate park.
He even incorporates skating into some science curriculum while teaching by showing students how the sport can illustrate Newton’s laws of motion.
“The plans look good,” Spinks said. “The park concept design caters to the street skaters and the vert skaters. It has good flow and I believe will be loved by the skaters of Gainesville and beyond.”
Resident Michael L. Lynch said he believes parks officials are doing a great job pushing this project and engaging the public about it.
“After attending the public meeting and providing my thoughts, I submitted photographs of design elements from street skateboarding spots in Gainesville’s history,” Lynch said. “I was pleased to find many of these elements incorporated within the final conceptual design. What remains to be told is if the conceptual design will be brought to life in full.”
Graham said that feedback on the design received thus far has already generated new ideas, such as the addition of shading elements in the park’s seating area.
But some other concerns remain.
“I’d like to see a different shaped bowl,” said resident Joe Rademacher. “The kidney shape didn’t work well at Fowler Park in Forsyth County. Perhaps something along the lines of a peanut shape like at Brook Run Skate Park (in Dunwoody).”
And beyond the physical attributes the park will include, Lynch said he hopes the project won’t become a substitute for the sport’s true nature – born of the streets.
“My own fear, however, is that in the process of obtaining a public skate park, we will see an increasing level of punishment for street skateboarding within the city of Gainesville,” he added. “It is a fear that I hope never comes to fruition, but provided the history, proves most likely.”