Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison met with local youth this week to plan a proposed skateboard park to be constructed in the city.
How do you get young people interested in skateboarding to use your planned skate park? Let them design it.
This is the solution Williamsburg leaders came up with for their skate park, which is expected to be open by spring.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison said he doesn’t know how much interest there will be in the skate park, but he believes there are definitely those who are interested in it.
"I don’t think skating is for everybody, but neither is softball, football, bicycling or whatever," he said. "There is a niche out there. They don’t really want to play softball, football or basketball. They want to skate.
"The city and tourism agree it’s our job to find something that everybody can enjoy. Who knows, this might generate a huge interest in it. I think the interest is enough out there right now that it will be well used. I don’t think it is going to sit around empty."
Harrison and Tourism Director Alvin Sharpe met with a group of eight skateboarders for over an hour at Williamsburg City Hall Monday afternoon.
During the meeting, the youngsters, who were mainly teenagers, looked over printouts of available features for the skate park and designs of other skate parks, plus submitted a few ideas of their own.
Then they spent time cutting out pictures of what they liked and gluing them onto a piece of paper laying out a tentative design for the course, which Sharpe plans to convert to a computer rendering and submit to skate park developers.
"It is basically their design. All of them are putting their favorite parts in it. I think by the guys taking an interest in it and ownership in it, they will take care of it," Harrison said.
"They can help police it. Everybody else will see it is not just our thing; this is theirs. I’m not going to skate. Alvin is not going to skate. We’d break our necks."
Harrison admits there is another reason why he wanted to get the kids involved in the design of the skate park. He knows next to nothing about skateboarding and even less about designing a skate park.
"I did try to watch the X Games a little bit this year to get some of the terminology down," Harrison said. "After meeting with all the kids, I found out I had no clue how to go about designing it."
The 75′ x 75′ skate park will be built at Briar Creek Park near the basketball court inside the fence.
"It is right there out in the open. I believe it will be safe and easy to get to. People can walk to it and ride their bikes to it," Harrison said.
The surface for the skate park will be finished before year’s end, and then it will be a matter of how long it takes the company making the features to build and install them.
Kids originated project
Harrison said the idea for the project came from the kids about four years ago when he was still a middle school teacher at Williamsburg Independent School and had some of them in class.
The project has taken a little longer to get off the ground than Harrison first thought.
"It has been four years. They have been patient. That is really the reason I have wanted them to be a part of this, all of them," Harrison said.
Collin Rowe, 15, is a sophomore at Williamsburg High School, and one of the teens that first approached Harrison about building a skate park.
"We pretty much have made prototypes of the park for the past four years. We are just thinking about what we are going to get and now we finally have it," Rowe said.
The idea for the park is to put in a lot of technical things for more experienced skaters and some simple stuff for the youngsters and the beginners.
"If you have watched a lot of skate videos and X Games and stuff, you will notice the quarter pipes and the speed ramps and the stairs. You will notice all the flat bars, hand rails, bench and stuff like that," Rowe added.
Alternative for teens
Rowe agreed with Harrison that there are teens, who aren’t interested in traditional extra curricular activities and have other interests. In addition to skateboarders, the park will also be for scooters and bikes.
"It may keep people off drugs and out of stealing," Rowe noted.
So how many teenagers might be interested in the Williamsburg Skate Park?
"All of Corbin’s skate park," Rowe said getting a laugh from his fellow skate boarders at Monday’s meeting. "I think it will prompt people to start skating, and it will attract people from the Tri-Counties."
Daniel Hill, also a 15-year-old sophomore at Williamsburg, was another teen, who approached Harrison about the idea for the skate park.
When Hill was in seventh grade, he admits that he made fun of all the skaters. By his eighth grade year, he became a skater.
For Hill the skate park means a chance.
"People always say there has never been a pro come out of Williamsburg or any place like this," Hill said. "Now, we are getting a skate park to give us the ability to do something like that. It changes everything."
Angela Bryant, whose son Dalton Adams was one of the teens designing the park at Monday’s meeting, said it means a lot to her son and others.
"I agreed with Mayor Harrison there are some that don’t like to play football or baseball. They like to skate," Bryant noted.
"There is no where for them to skate. They are not allowed to skate on the sidewalks in the city. Parking lots don’t want you in there, so where do you skate? This is good that they are going to get something that they want to do."
Bryant also thinks that having the skate park will create more interest in skateboarding by offering a place that teenagers can skate.
When it comes to skateboarders, there are those that have fallen and those that will fall at some point.
Hill admits skateboarding can be dangerous. He broke his ankle recently in Newport, Tenn.
There have been deaths in the sport. In January, a teenager died in Knoxville while skateboarding.
"He tried to do something and bailed on it. He got a concussion and died a few weeks later in the hospital," Hill said.
Hill, Rowe and the other teens know there are ways to avoid serious injury though, like wearing a helmet.
"Don’t try stuff I know I can’t do," Hill said.
"Skate to your abilities," Rowe added.
Paying for park
Harrison said the exact funding mechanism for the entire project is still being worked out but is in the $40,000 – $50,000 range.
The city recently sold an old house off Second Street that it owned to the University of the Cumberlands for $35,000, and plans to put the proceeds from that sale to help fund the skate park.
"It is the house everybody had been wanting to tear down that adjoins the football field. We have no use for it," Harrison said. "The college wanted it. It will make a nice entrance to the football field.
"It will be a nice entrance into Briar Creek Park, and it helps us because we can turn around and use that money to put in a skate park for the kids"
The Williamsburg Tourism Commission plans to donate to the project, and two more groups are currently talking about the project and may help out.
The park will have some limitations due to budget constraints and insurance requirements, which will require features not to be over three feet high.
"We’ll make it high enough where it is a challenge, but short enough to where it is still safe and so it doesn’t affect the city’s insurance," Harrison added. "I think the design that they are coming up with is going to be challenging and fun enough to where the height of it doesn’t really matter. I’m excited about it. I think it is going to be good."