Archive for: Charleston
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.
Take a minute to check out some of the photos from last night’s event here:
We hope you made it! We’re pretty sure you did, because Hope & Union was JAM PACKED with skaters, artists, moms, dads, kids, adults, lions, tigers and bears OH MY! This was a spectacular event and you all made it possible. A very special thanks to John, Jess, Liz and the rest of the Hope & Union crew. You helped make Skate and Create 2012 a beautiful occasion. Our volunteers worked tirelessly to put together this event. The artists outdid themselves with some innovative uses of skateboards as paintings, sculptures, chandeliers, room dividers, coffee tables, chairs, and more. Who would have thought a skateboard can become so many different forms of art? A tool used for performance art was transformed by over 100 artists into a piece of fine art. POUR IT NOW thanks the many donors who bid on these wonderful works of art. We raised more than half of our total fundraising goal – approximately $3200! The students of CCSMS are so close to skatboarding in PE class next year!
We’ve recently been in touch with Tom O’Rourke, Executive Director at Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, and the most recent word on the Charleston Skateboard park is that the planned location for the two million dollar project has become difficult to secure. As we understand it, the property located under the Arthur Ravenel Bridge on Meeting Street is owned by SCDOT, which means their rules on building of any sort are very strict. It sounds like Tom has been negotiating with SCDOT back and forth since Charleston County Parks and Recreation stepped into this project. The bad news is, regardless of Tom’s valiant efforts, little progress has been made with the SCDOT. Word on the street is that Mayor Riley and the City of Charleston will be stepping up to let the SCDOT know the City of Charleston really wants to see this project happen. Help us get this done; let city council and the mayor know you want the park under the bridge on meeting street ASAP. Email them all here right now!
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.
If you have not picked up a copy of November’s Transworld (p. 162)and The Skateboard Magazine (p. 70), you might want to go out to grab a few copies. Our Charleston key ramp was featured prominently in both. Totally Awesome! Oh and by the way, the cover of that same Transworld is a photo of a Columbia, SC downtown spot – crazy!
Local skate parks carve positive niche in the community
By Samantha Test
Special to The Post and Courier
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Skateboarders don’t see the world like everyone else does.
Stairs are not a way to go up and down, rails are not for maintaining your balance and empty swimming pools are not something to be refilled. They are obstacles on which skateboarders perform, let loose, express themselves and unleash their creativity. They are the means for an entire way of life.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees the same thing. And not everyone can agree on the art of skateboarding.
That’s why there are skate parks.
The three in Charleston are making everyone happy and benefit both skateboarder and community: Ackerman Park in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant Skatepark and The Park in North Charleston. They are providing skateboarders with a place to go as well as a place to call their own and to just have fun, the point of skateboarding.
“Having a skate park benefits you. You get to do what you love to do without being harassed,” said founding partner of The Park, Jonathan Dixon. “Here, it’s a family feel, a backyard feel. Everyone here knows each other and takes care of each other. It just giving kids a place to go. You get to go someplace and do what you love to do.”
Dixon remembers when he was a teenager in Greenville and the fun he had at the city’s newly built skate park. He knows firsthand the benefits of giving youth an outlet for their energy and passion.
“Charleston didn’t really have anything for kids. It’s a beautiful city and nice to cruise around, but kids didn’t really have a place of their own: built by skateboarders, for skateboarders. It’s where you make your friends,” he said.
“My main goal is to make sure kids have as much fun as I did when I was a kid and that skate park was a huge part of it. I made friends for life; because of skateboarding, you have these bonds for life. I just want to give kids a place of their own, a place they can feel comfortable when they come in every day and have fun.”
Mark Friedrich, recreation specialist for the town of Mount Pleasant’s recreation department, agrees.
“It provides a supervised setting, protected from vehicle traffic, for skating and learning to skate. Parents know that their children have a safe, supervised area to skate available,” he said. “As with other athletic facilities, they provide an environment to participate in and master the skills of their sport, improve physical fitness, relax and interact socially.”
Providing skateboarders with safe, adequate facilities just like any other sport is just as important to Ryan Cockrell as it is to Dixon and Friedrich. He’s executive director of Pour It Now, a South Carolina skate park advocacy group.
“We’re a dedicated group of volunteers helping the city harness the positive energy that skateboarders posses and provide recreational opportunities for skaters. Skateboarders outnumber participants in most traditional sports,” Cockrell said.
“The main thing is skateboarders possess an extreme desire to participate in their activity and whether there are facilities or not, they will find a way to skateboard and that can mean negative consequences.
“In every sport, you need to provide adequate facilities for what’s going on. Skate parks, if they’re nonexistent or too crowded, then the skateboarders go elsewhere and recreate where it’s inappropriate. Potentially it’s an organic way to control skateboarding traffic in your city. It’s better to provide facilities that attract skaters out of the streets and into the park.”
By allowing skateboarders an appropriate place to go, they also reap many other benefits. Cockrell explained that skateboarding is so much fun, skaters don’t realize they’re exercising or building life skills.
“I think part of it is that freedom and lack of rules. It’s a goal-oriented, patience-oriented activity and that’s a part of why it’s so fun: you don’t feel like you’re participating in a sport. You don’t have to show up on time, you go at your own pace, your own style. There are no coaches telling you where and when and why and how to do it,” Cockrell continued.
“It’s part sport, part art, part culture. You get a lot of rewards from the amount that you work. That’s a natural, addictive feeling – that feeling of accomplishment. From a basic trick up to the most technical tricks, you have that exact same feeling of accomplishment. You earned it. That ability to practice and understand the pay off of continuing to work at something transfers into your daily life and builds life skills.”
As with any other activity, skateboarding also keeps skaters out of trouble.
“There are some kids that if they did not have The Park, they would be out getting in trouble,” Dixon said. “They say idle time is the devil’s tool. There’s so many kids that instead of getting in trouble, come to the park and skate.”
Dixon, a former school teacher and police officer, has plenty of experience keeping kids out of trouble. Running The Park and being there on a daily basis has made him a role model for many young skaters.
“Sometimes what you say has a bigger impact than parents,” he said. “I have parents that will ask me to talk to their kids if they’re having trouble in school or with their girlfriend or other kids are smoking and they don’t know what to do.”
The positive environment that skate parks provide has been invaluable for many skateboarders. Friedrich, Dixon and Cockrell all agree that skateboarders are some of the most creative, motivated, dedicated and upstanding youth in the community.
“Some people may feel that skateboarders are undisciplined or not interested in academics,” said Friedrich. “We employ two skaters to work our skate park and teach skateboard camps. Both are honor students in high school, one at Wando and the other at the School of the Arts.”
“If you’re a kid, you should only be worried about enjoying life,” Dixon said.
And that’s something everyone can agree on. So in the words of Dixon, shut up and skate.