CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Downtown Charleston skateboarders could soon be taking a u-turn. That is if a new proposal by City of Charleston councilman Mike Seekings is passed.
According to Seekings, there is no legal way for skateboarders to travel across the downtown peninsula without going through current skateboarding restricted zones. His proposal would enforce restricted skateboarding zones and create new set routes for skateboarders to legally get around town.
“What we are trying to do, and what we will do, and this is the objective, is to first define the commercial zones where skateboarding is not to be allowed,” Seekings said.
“From there, find boulevards and corridors through the city for alternate modes of transportation bikes, skateboards and alike with guidelines that everyone is on the same page on.”
As of now, not all skateboarders are on board with the proposal.
“Charleston has a lot of skateboard commuters because of the compact size of the peninsula. Because of the College of Charleston, a lot of those kids get around on skateboards every day,” said skateboarding advocate and executive director of Pour It Now, Ryan Cockrell.
“I think there are so many important things than skateboarding for our police to focus on, like DUI’s, murders, real crime. I think it will be a waste of tax payer dollars to have them go after skateboarders.”
Councilman Seekings said he wants to make the point that he is not trying to ban skateboarding, but that there are no guidelines regulating skateboarding unlike other modes of transportation, such as bicycling.
“There is no rhyme or reason for the matter that people use skateboards in the streets of Charleston; for instance, riding at night without lights, going down one-way streets, not stopping at stop signs,” Seekings said.
“I want people to get out of their cars and onto the streets, but when we do that we have to make sure people do that probably safely and in the right way.”
A public hearing for the skateboarding proposal is expected to take place mid-summer.
by Mark Davenport, WCSC
A skate park in downtown Charleston is slowly grinding ahead with plans to build. Skaters are one meeting away from finding out whether their dreams will come true.
It’s been years in the making, but the decision on whether an area in downtown will become Charleston’s first skate park could happen in the next two months.
There’s a lot of people who are tired of waiting and are ready to skateboard. Ryan Cockrell and Shannon Smith have a downtown skate park envisioned in their minds underneath Highway 17’s overpass.
The two brain storm about what’s possible for a skating community that grows daily.
“It’s been frustrating, but like everything you learn, things that are worth obtaining take hard work,” Smith said.
But after two years, $68,000 and hard work, they’re still walking through overgrown grass.
Tom O’Rourke, executive director of Charleston County Parks and Rec, was the man who promised the skateboarding community a home. He says the final decision is one meeting in Columbia away.
O’Rourke says if a compromise can be struck, a skate park will be in downtown in the next 14 months. O’Rouke says if the two sides can’t see eye to eye, he won’t spend anymore time and money on the location. He says the skate park will go elsewhere.
If approved, O’Rourke says the skate park will be self-sufficient. The money to build will come from reserves from parks and recreation events and skaters will pay the fees to use the park.
From the Post & Courier April 30, 2011:
Recreational skateboarding differs from the issue of using skateboards as transportation, but recreational skateboarders also have been bruised with bad recent news.
A year ago, the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission agreed to spend $2 million to build a new skate park — one of the largest on the East Coast– under the Ravenel Bridge in downtown Charleston.
Today, it’s still unclear when construction will begin.
“Is everyone frustrated? Yes,” PRC Director Tom O’Rourke said this week. “The frustration is the project is slower than we’d like it to be, but the project in no way is dead.”
The problem has stemmed from a bureaucratic Catch 22.
O’Rourke said his agency didn’t want to spend $60,000 or so designing the park if the Federal Highway Administration and S.C. Department of Transportation would not allow it in the state right of way under the bridge. However, those agencies have said they need to see a design before giving their blessing.
“We don’t like to spend money unless we know for sure that things are going to work out,” O’Rourke said. “We asked them, ‘Why don’t you give us the parameters so we can do the plan?’ And we went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.”
O’Rourke said he almost gave up on the site until Charleston Mayor Joe Riley agreed to help get the necessary approvals from the highway agencies.
The bureaucratic standoff has irked those like Shannon Smith, a mom, teacher and avid skateboarder who is on the board of the nonprofit group Pour It Now. She and other Pour It Now members appeared before city officials this week asking for their help in keeping the project on track.
O’Rourke said the Park and Recreation Commission could consider a design-build contract for the park at its next meeting, but he still is unsure when a design will be approved and when construction will start.
“We want to start pouring some concrete,” he added. “I’m sure in a year or two, we’ll look back and be pleased, but right now, it’s pretty darn frustrating.”
Jacob Hinton never used his skateboard to get around his hometown of Florence, but when he started classes at the College of Charleston last fall, he found it was the best bet for quick trips downtown.
“It’s safer, more fun and easier to control,” he said of his longboard, a type of skateboard designed more for transit than tricks.
“If you’re going to class, you don’t have to chain it up,” he added. “You can just bring it in with you. You don’t have to worry about it getting stolen.”
William McFadden, 22, a graphic design student at Trident Technical College downtown, has been skateboarding since he was 8 and still uses it to get between his East Side home and class, restaurants and shops.
“It’s a way of transportation for me because I don’t have a car,” he said. “It’s a workout plan for me, too. I can eat anything I want and won’t gain any weight. It’s my everyday exercise.”
Across downtown streets, particularly near colleges, the use of skateboards has risen sharply, much like bicycle use. There’s only one problem: Skateboarding is illegal — at least much of it is — and enforcement is expected to pick up soon.
Until now, skateboard enforcement has been mild.
Both Hinton and McFadden said they have been lectured or warned by police — but not ticketed.
“Once I was skating on the sidewalk, and a cop came up and said, ‘Get off the sidewalk,’ so I’d go in the street,” McFadden said. “One time I was skating in the street, and a cop pulls up and said, ‘Hey, get on the sidewalk.’ ”
However, Charleston City Council soon is expected to give the College of Charleston Public Safety the authority to write municipal tickets so college officers will be able to enforce skateboarding and other city laws.
College of Charleston Public Safety Chief Paul Verrecchia said the change will give his officers another option.
“There’s no state law that covers skateboards,” he said. “To my knowledge, there’s no county ordinance.”
Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said the change stemmed from his conversations with Verrecchia, and Mullen said he hopes enforcement will increase because he is concerned about skateboarders’ safety.
“We want to prevent a tragedy,” Mullen said, adding that if a skateboarder were seriously injured, even killed, then, “Some would ask, ‘Why weren’t you doing enforcement? Why weren’t you taking steps to keep this from happening?’ ”
Verrecchia said: “If I were speaking to students, I would give them a friendly warning that the campus police now have another option at their disposal to enforce the law. … It won’t be just warnings coming from us. It could be summonses — citations to appear in court.”
Jack Abbott’s Continuum Skateshop on Spring Street does a mix of business, serving those who skateboard just for fun and those who use the boards to get around.
“More and more people are using skateboards to get to class,” he said. “It’s a safe, green healthy form of transportation. It needs to be encouraged, especially the way gas prices are.”
Others are beginning to agree.
Charleston Moves, a nonprofit that advocates human-powered transportation, soon will discuss skateboarding in more depth, as the rise in skateboarding here has mirrored the rise in bicycle use, director Tom Bradford said.
“Personally, I just wonder how it can be outlawed,” Bradford said of skateboarding. “It’s clearly an idea whose time has come.”
Not everyone thinks so. Marvin Katzen drives his “Doin’ the Charleston” tour bus around city streets near the college and has had some ugly brushes with skateboarders, including some who have banged on his bus’ windows and made obscene gestures
“These skateboarders go whipping in and out of traffic, most of the time going the wrong way, particularly on St. Philip Street between Calhoun and Wentworth,” Katzen said. “It’s not a mode of transportation. It’s a toy. The skateboard doesn’t belong on the street.”
But McFadden said he tries to look out for his own safety — and that of others.
“The only type of accident I’ve had on the skateboard is when I hit a rock or didn’t know a curb was coming up,” he said. “I’m constantly looking behind me and in front of me to make sure I’m not hitting any cracks or any pedestrian walking toward me. I try to be conscious of that and respectable.”
Community: Ramping Up
Pour It Now gets big air on a peninsula skate park with funding from Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission
Shannon Smith thinks Charleston is a pretty friendly city—unless you’re riding a skateboard. Then this place renowned for its politeness becomes considerably less hospitable. “Even growing up, when we were skating the George Street pool, there was bias against skaters,” says the 39-year-old Charleston native, now president of the local chapter of Pour It Now, a four-year-old skateboarding advocacy group that helps build skate parks around the state. Since joining the nonprofit, she’s seen dozens of facilities pop up across the Southeast, including in Columbia and Bluffton. Despite years of effort, however, Charleston still doesn’t have a major park to call its own. But in late March, the wheels of change were finally set in motion.
On March 29, the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) voted unanimously to carve out $2 million for a new downtown skate park. To be located on undeveloped South Carolina Department of Transportation property under the Ravenel Bridge on Meeting Street, the park is currently slated as a state-of-the-art, 40,000-square-foot center with room for enough bowls, half-pipes, quarter-pipes, rails, vert ramps, and stair sets to accommodate the entire Lowcountry skating populous. “It’s a demographic we haven’t done much for,” says CCPRC executive director Tom O’Rourke, who’s been pushing for the project for the last eight months, even taking commissioners on a field trip to a Salt Lake City skate park during a recent national conference.
For Pour It Now, the budget approval is a huge jump in a campaign that hasn’t always been promising. The group first submitted plans for a park to the city more than three years ago, projecting a $1.5 million price tag for a 35,000-square-foot park and gearing up to raise the funds privately. When the city couldn’t help finance the project, Department of Recreation director Laurie Yarbrough and deputy director of parks operations Matt Compton contacted O’Rourke to see if the CCPRC wanted to get involved.
Both O’Rourke and Smith joke about the unlikely partnership. “It’s like skateboarders and government trying to get married,” he explains of the alley-oops that the process has taken. “I’m waiting for Tom to put a ring on my finger,” joked Smith before the meeting.
And O’Rourke has delivered the bling. He envisions the venue being more than a skate park, featuring amenities such as a climbing wall, a pro shop, concessions, and possibly even a connection to the city’s fishing pier on the other side of the bridge. He also talks of the park hosting regional and national skate events, drawing big names from across the globe. “This won’t be like anything anyone has seen in this area,” says O’Rourke. And he now has healthy funding to pull it off.
The park won’t be open anytime soon, though. CCPRC allocated the money in a July 2010 to July 2011 budget; once the funding becomes available, it may take more than a year to finalize design plans and begin construction. In the meantime, the commission will be securing permits and gathering public input on design and usage, including assistance from Pour It Now.
“We’re finally exhaling and feel like we’re passing our baby on to good hands,” Smith says. “They’ll make sure it’s top of the line. It will probably be the best in the country at the time it’s built.” And O’Rourke is happy that an underserved constituency has finally received some long-coming attention. “There are a lot of winners in this,” he says.
County panel agrees to spend $2 million on skate park
Dude, for real?
By David Slade
The Post and Courier
Saturday, April 3, 2010
This could be truly epic.
The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission has agreed to spend $2 million to build a skate park — one of the largest on the East Coast– in downtown Charleston.
Two. Million. Dollars.
“It will be quite a large park,” said Shannon Smith, a local mom, teacher and avid skateboarder affiliated with the skate park advocacy group Pour It Now. “We’re shooting for 40,000 square feet.”
At that size, the skateboard park would dwarf the new Owens Field Skate Park in Columbia and would be the same size as the Louisville Extreme Park in Kentucky.
Plans call for creating the park on land along Morrison Drive just north of Huger Street, in the state-owned right of way below the Ravenel Bridge. The city of Charleston and Pour It Now are working with the county PRC on the plan.
The park plan was hailed by local skateboard enthusiasts, including 20-year-old Stephen Pond, who served a 90-day probationary sentence for skateboarding on a city street last year.
“We’ve been ready for a park for a long time,” said Pond, a College of Charleston freshman from Winston-Salem, N.C.
Pond said he and other skaters would use the park, but, he said, he’s not ready to give up skateboarding on city streets, which is illegal. He said he’s been skateboarding since he was about 11 and that his board gets him to classes and takes him on recreational outings.
After Charleston police ticketed him for skateboarding on St. Philip Street, Pond said he went to Charleston Municipal Court and was sentenced to probation.
“I stopped for 90 days, but I’m back,” he declared. “I use my board every day.”
The PRC’s decision Monday to fund the park follows about three years of on-and-off discussions between Charleston city officials and Pour It Now.
“We realized it would be an uphill battle to get the money that we needed, so we approached the PRC,” said Matt Compton, director of the city’s Parks Department. “Everything the county PRC does is first class, they don’t have a facility downtown, and this would allow them to fill a niche.”
The county has three water parks, several beach parks, boat landings, fishing piers, and even a bring-your-own-horse equestrian center, but no skate parks.
“For us, it’s not just a skate park,” said PRC Executive Director Tom O’Rourke. “We will try to include as many things there as possible; maybe some climbing features, or some fitness programs that take the Ravenel Bridge into consideration.”
Pour It Now members often have said that if a city doesn’t have a skate park, then the whole city is a skate park, a theory that was tested in a highly publicized 2006 video showing a skateboarder being shoved into a bush by a city police officer while skating atop a bench at Waterfront Park.
The city, which has a modest skateboard park in West Ashley, was interested in building a substantial skateboard park but didn’t have the funding for a large one.
“We wouldn’t have been happy with it, and we would have had to operate it,” Compton said. “The park they are contemplating would be one of the largest in the Southeast, so it’s sure to be an instant success.”
Like most Charleston County parks, it would not be free, and as with Mount Pleasant’s tiny skateboard park, skaters would be required to wear safety gear.
“We’re government, so it’s going to be really safe, and it’s going to cost money,” O’Rourke said.
How much money, he couldn’t say, but the hope is to keep admission fees reasonable and make money from hosting tournaments and selling concessions.
“That budget (approved by the PRC commission) starts in July 2010, so it’s not time to run out and buy the skateboards yet,” O’Rourke said.
Edward C. Fennell contributed to this report.
Downtown skatepark gets $2 million
New Parks and Rec site will include other features
by Christina Janke
The Charleston County Parks and Recreation has approved $2 million to create a skatepark at the foot of the Cooper River Bridge, near Meeting and Huger St. “We’re very excited about this one,” says Executive Director Thomas O’Rourke. “We have enough funding for all of the skate features, which should probably take about $1.5 million alone.”
But they’re not going to stop at just concrete bowls, decks, and ramps. They plan to build a park approximately 40,000 square feet in size, complete with extra features accessible to non-skaters, including a climbing wall. They also plan to offer wellness programs like walking and bike paths that will pair well with the existing Ravenel Bridge walkway.
Getting approved for a project this big was just the first step. Park and Rec will collaborate with the City of Charleston and the Department of Transportation, which currently owns the property they want to build on. And since this project is for the community, the public will have a part in the design process, including surveys and at meetings.
“We will be giving the public every opportunity to put their two cents in,” says O’Rourke.
Work should begin this summer, but until then, skaters will have to be content with sidewalks and railings.
By Ken Hawkins, but enhanced by othersFiled Mar 31, 2010 at 10:33 pm
$2 million set aside for a downtown Charleston skate park
The Charleston City Paper is reporting that for the first time in decades downtown Charleston may get a skate park thanks to a $2 million commitment by Charleston County Parks and Recreation.
Get the scoop on what, when, and why on their site.
NEW DIPT NYC ® NEWS: We have received word that $2 million has been set aside for a downtown Charleston skate park
We have word from our down South counterparts that the Charleston County Parks and Recreation has approved $2 million to create a skatepark at the foot of the Cooper River Bridge, near Meeting and Huger St. This has been an ongoing on/off conversation for some time now but it appears the plans are more concrete (no pun intended) at this point.
The park is set to consist of bowls, decks, ramps & more and is anticipated to to cover nearly 40,000 square feet in size with features also available to non-skaters. No word is official on the “other” features except for a climbing wall. The City of Charleston, Department of Transportation as well as the Park and Rec division will be collaborating on the effort and word is the public will have a part in the design process to some extent with work beginning this summer on the project. This is great to see in the area as there are many individuals who have been yearning for a spot like this to support the ever growing movement of skateboarding in the area & I am sure the crew over at Continuum will notice some pickup in business.
Source: The Digitel
Local skatepark gets demolished
Wasteland: Rest in Pieces
by Joshua Curry
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 imporessed. “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.
Owens Field Skate Park opening can’t wait
By JOEY HOLLEMAN – email@example.com
David Toole stood at the top of one of the concrete bowls at the new Owens Field Skate Park, bundled against a biting cold wind but feeling a certain warmth deep inside.
“I’ve been wanting a skate park in my town since I was 11,” said Toole, 36. “I remember the first time I was busted for skating (on private property) in Irmo, I told the cop there wasn’t anyplace we could skate legally.”
The officer recommended Toole work with public officials to get a skate facility built. Twenty-five years later, the area finally has a first-rate, public skate park. The 14,500-square-foot custom concrete park, which opens this weekend, replaces a small skate park many local skaters considered inadequate.
“It shouldn’t have taken so long,” Toole said, before adding the end result was worth the wait.
The pent-up desire for a skate facility showed in recent weeks. As the bowls and rails took shape, city parks officials had to run off skaters almost daily at the unfinished facility.
When a local TV station prematurely reported that the park was open last weekend, hundreds of kids showed up. They were allowed to skate Saturday and Sunday, but park rangers began shooing skaters again on Monday. There were still some safety concerns, and the city didn’t want the kids to damage the facility before the construction company signed off on the finished product, said Damon McDuffie, parks planner for the city.
But when the city allowed limited skating Wednesday afternoon for a photo session, McDuffie and Dianne Rushing, who managed the construction for AOS Specialty Contractors, saw the enthusiasm and came up with a compromise. The final safety concerns could be dealt with this week, workers could work around peak skating times on the finishing touches and the park could open as soon as rules signs were posted. That could be as early as this weekend but more likely will be next week, McDuffie said.
A grand opening event is still scheduled for March 6, but the three major bowls and the long alley filled with boxes and rails will be broken in by then.
Those who already have hit the concrete love it.
“When I first started working to get this thing built, I wondered ‘What will it look like?'” said Caleb Brown, 15, of Columbia. “I never imagined it would be this great.”
Caleb is too young to have lived the full, frustrating history of skate parks in the Midlands. Toole and others have been pleading with municipal officials in Richland and Lexington counties for decades to build skate parks. Frustrated that nobody would listen, several skaters in the 1990s built a makeshift facility they called “The Slab” on an abandoned railroad loading dock where the USC Greek housing is now. It was packed on weekends.
In 1999, Columbia put up some metal skate structures in a small section of Owens Field Park. But skaters had little input in the design. The skate surface was small and the structures weren’t what most skaters wanted. Still, kids showed up and loved the place.
Jack Winburn had just been bitten by the skateboard bug in 2007 when the old skate park was torn down to make room for a running track.
“When he saw them bulldozing it, I thought he was going to die,” said Mark Winburn, Jack’s father. “We’ve been driving by here ever since they tore the other one down, watching for the new one.”
In the meantime, Jack honed his skills on the skate park at Plex Indoor Sports in Northeast Richland and at skate events around the Southeast. The 7-year-old shows no fear now dropping into the 8-foot bowls at Owens Field.
“It’s great,” Jack said of the park.
“This is more than we hoped for,” said Ryan Cockrell, who many skaters credit with pushing to make sure the facility was built and was done well. “I’ve skated so many parks, but this one is up there among my favorites.”
Cockrell formed a nonprofit group, Pour It Now, that brought together skaters and gave them a clear voice at government meetings. “Ryan figured the ins and outs of the system for us,” Toole said.
Pour It Now proved skaters weren’t just a bunch of punks by lining up a $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation and staging several well-attended events, including a Skate and Create art show at the Columbia Museum of Art. The group raised about $35,000 for the project.
Cockrell and Toole, owner of Blue Tile Skate Shop, worked with city planners and lined up famed skate park architect Wally Hollyday to design the facility. They used examples from other states to convince Columbia that a well-designed skate park would be a true amenity. They cited studies showing more kids ride skateboards than play baseball.
City Council finally bought into the idea, agreeing in 2008 to spend $500,000 in hospitality tax revenue on the skate park. To skaters, the planning process seemed to plod along. But once construction began, the project cruised. The construction finished ahead of schedule and slightly under budget, McDuffie said.
The skate park was supposed to open in April. Fast-track construction pushed the official opening date to March 6. Insatiable demand moved it up another two weeks.
“It’s going to be so crowded and so overused, it’s going to be painfully obvious we need more like this,” Toole said.
Cockrell said an area with the population of metropolitan Columbia needs about 64,000 square feet of skate parks. He sees Owens Field as the major park, with smaller ones built in other communities. A park already is in the planning stages in Blythewood.
Flush with the success at Owens Field, Cockrell has set his sights higher.
“Our goal is a skate park in every neighborhood,” he said.
Reach Holleman at (803) 771-8366.