Ashe County skate park slides ahead
Nearly five months after the purchase of skate park equipment, an additional $50,000 in funding to make the Ashe Skate Park a reality has been set free by county officials.
In an unexpected move last July, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of the controversial Appalachian Skate Park (ASP) from the ASP Committee (ASPC) in Boone for the sum of $32,600. The sum, though considerable, was what some described as a steal because of the age of the equipment (three years) and its intrinsic worth of $68,000.
The park was offered to Ashe County Parks and Recreation (ACPR) after the Watauga County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to close the park and remove the equipment.
Most independent reports from Boone news organizations, and the majority of the discussion on High Country blogs and social networking sites pointed to the main problem, at the park's Boone location on Hunting Hills Road, as liability issues and the refusal of many skaters to wear safety equipment.
Ashe recreation director Joe Boccardy announced late last week that the county had authorized the use of the $50,000 to install a concrete pad on the spot previously used as tennis courts at Ashe County Park.
The next step is to hire workers to pour the concrete pad and then to assemble the equipment.
"We are looking to hire local folks to do the work and are going to push forward with the project as weather permits.
"The Board of Commissioners has directed that the people who do the work, if they are going to do it during the winter, put their name to the work and stand behind it," Boccardy said.
Boccardy said he would not be putting the job out for bids because he has a very limited budget to work with for the project and needs to find a contractor that can work within it.
"As soon as the pad is done we will begin assembling the equipment and hopefully be ready to go with an informal dedication in the early spring and then hold a grand opening later when we have been able to rally skaters in the area."
Boccardy said he hopes to involve young people in the county as a youth advisory council and a skateboard club with officers and a board. "That way they have a stake in the park. This, I think, will make for a better environment than what existed in Boone."
County Manager Dan McMillan said that the funds had been cleared for the advancement of the project because had the county purchased the equipment and installed it new, it would have cost much more.
Not everyone is behind the project. Ashe County Board of Commissioners Chairperson Judy Porter-Poe said that her individual concerns about the park had not changed since she was the sole no vote when the park was initially offered to the county.
"I still think that with the problems that existed in Boone, we are going to be looking at needing additional personnel to supervise the park, adding additional costs to the county."
Additionally, according to Boccardy, there was a considerable amount of resistance from a small group of individuals that utilize the tennis courts at the park, because the initial idea was to use two of the four tennis courts at the park as the skate park's location.
"The tennis court people got mad about it. They wanted action on tennis courts and came to the advisory board meeting and said we don't want it; we want more tennis courts.
"The tennis people were all obstinate and said that 'if you renovate only two courts and don't give us four courts, we'll go someplace else. We want four or nothing.'
"So we said 'well you'll get nothing,'" Boccardy said.
"Now we are going to turn the space into two outdoor basketball courts and a skateboard park."
Boccardy said that he is continuing to work with the tennis people and the hope is to purchase 2.7 acres and "since they want four courts, we are working on finding them space for four courts somewhere else."
Additionally, Boccardy said they are working with the U.S. Tennis Association to get some grant monies to aid in the project. "We could be eligible for up to $50,000 but there is no guarantee of it."
Boccardy doesn't believe there will be the issues at Ashe that existed in Boone because once the youth advisory board is formed, "the young people will feel a sense of ownership with the park and help in policing it and the folks who will use it."
For more information on the park and the youth leadership board, contact Boccardy at (336) 982-6185.