A city-sanctioned skate park discussion emerged from Milledgeville City Council earlier this month, six years after it shut down ramps next to the Golden Pantry. Immediately after the 2005 closing, City Council expressed interest in developing a new park as seen by past and present City Councilwoman Jeannette Walden’s comments on finding a better place for a new skate park.
“I really want us to find a safer, cleaner, nicer place for (the children),” Walden told The Baldwin Bulletin in 2005.
However, no suitable proposal was reached and the subject vanished from the council’s agenda until three weeks ago. The skate park discussion was resurrected by City Councilman Philip Joiner who believes the community’s interest in a skate park has not faded.
“(Ms. Walden,) you wanted to find a safer, cleaner, nicer place. That was six years ago and the interest is still there. There are about 14 million people in our country who take up skateboarding and roller blading as a hobby. Each weekend three new skate parks go up,” Joiner said.
Joiner said the park would provide a healthy alternative all around for young people in the community.
“Team sports are wonderful but (some people) don’t enjoy team sports,” Joiner said. “Idle time is not something we want for our youth who would be the predominant ones using the skate park. As obesity rates continue to rise, this would promote an active lifestyle. It’s an activity that they can engage in that promotes endurance and develops creativity.”
Joiner also suggests that a park would encourage the younger generation to get more involved in the community.
“It draws them into the civic process when a municipality gives them a gift of something like a skate park,” Joiner said. “There are many many examples if we continue to look at this and research this. All across the country… where these are constructed youth take on quite a bit of responsibility for them. It engages them and connects them to their community in way we otherwise would not be able to.”
Safety issues were the main reasons behind the close of the previous skate park in 2005.
“It was a space that was not sanctioned by the city and had some risks and the city made the safe choice to protect its citizens and close it down,” Joiner said.
James Jordan, City Attorney, said a new city-sanctioned skate park would not cause tremendous liability issues.
“In regards to the liability issue, a properly designed and maintained skate park is no different from any other recreational facility we have at Central Park,” Jordan said.
No specifics have been attached to the undertaking of a new skate park. The size, whereabouts and price tag of such a venture will continue to be explored as agreed by the council; however, the possibility of Bonner Park was discussed. According to City Councilwoman Collinda Lee and Walden in 2005 Bonner Park did not provide adequate space.
“At Bonner Park there really was no area that was big enough to accommodate,” Lee said.
City Marshall and Public Works Director Jack Graham agreed that the landscape of Bonner Park severely limited the possibilities of a park and defended the current space allotments.
“There is a reason college kids call it ‘The Pit’,” Graham said. “Because a lot of it is not usable. Even though it’s 20 plus acres most of what we have is right down in that bottom. That softball field in the middle is used for everything from practicing softball to football, lacrosse. The kids use it for everything. The basketball courts in the spring time, you go down there both courts are full almost every time you go down there. But even if we took one of (the courts) back in 2005 when it was discussed there wouldn’t have been enough room for a good skate park that was recommended.”
Skateboarders, however, have adapted the old concrete slab at the top Bonner Park to their own use.
“The slab as is is not nearly big enough; it’s 50 feet by 120 but they are using it anyway,” Graham said. “They have established their own ramps. There were five kids there at five o’clock today. They’ve made their own and some of it they have bolted down.”
Skateboarders seem to be determined to claim a space in the city until one is designated for them.
“Regardless of whether we have a (city) sanctioned park they are going to hone their craft,” Joiner said.