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Skateboarding Park is finally becoming a reality

Still a long way from completion, skateboard enthusiasts at least have a place to go, and the city is helping them to achieve their dream of a real facility for skateboarding.

"It's the ultimate rush," said Ryan Kennedy, one of the 30-some-odd enthusiasts' leaders. "We don't hang out in the parking lots, we don't get drunk, and we don't do drugs - skateboarding is our high."

In an article published in The Greenville Advocate's Dec. 20, 2000 edition entitled "Nowhere to go" the issue of skateboarders having no place to hone their craft and enjoy the sport of skateboarding was first introduced to the public of Butler County.

Not too long after that issue hit the stands, Kennedy and some of his friends were on the agenda at a Greenville City Council meeting, expressing their interests in a place away from pedestrians and motorists, where they could ride on their skateboards, and set up ramps and other devices used by skateboarding athletes.

Realizing the need to investigate possibilities of a skateboard park, Mayor Dexter McLendon appointed a committee to look into the matter.

That committee consisted of Councilman Gale Slagley, Parks and Recreation Director Jerome Harris, and Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram.

It was Ingram's suggestion to the Mayor and Council that some of the skateboarders be included in that committee, as they were the most logical choice for insight into what might be needed.

Following the formation of that committee some six months ago, much progress has been made in making the dream of a skate park become a reality.

"We have more than 30 people regularly involved in the skateboarding park now," said Kennedy, a member of the City's committee. "We have even had people from out-of-town coming here to skateboard a good bit."

"Here," as Kennedy refers to it, means Greenville's old tennis courts, located in Beeland Park behind the YMCA.

The city has purchased paint, rollers, buckets and brushes for the restoration of the old facility into a formidable and fashionable skateboarding park.

Chief Ingram brought the supplies to the skateboarders recently, in fact, the weekend preceding Tropical Storm Barry.

It was during this time that the walls were painted, the decks were cleaned and swept with brooms and power leaf blowers, and a general cleanup took place.

"We had started to get discouraged," Kennedy said. "Interest was real hot after the first committee meeting, but then it seemed as though interest in the park fell off. But then a few weeks ago, Chief Ingram came to the park with a seven-year-old boy who was interested in skateboarding - the Chief started 'tuning in' to the park," he said. "The Chief said they (the City) would work on trying to get some grant funding to get us three ramps."

"In the absence of being able to build a skate park from the ground up, we are looking into either buying some ramps, or contracting someone locally to build some," Ingram said.

"We have a good bunch of kids here, and while that is so, we also have a responsibility to keep those good kids entertained, to keep them good."

Ingram said while the commit-tee is still in the walking stage, the park looks a lot better now that it has been painted, and we are going to see about getting the lighting fixed - the Public Works Department is going to wok on drainage problems we have above the park, and Councilman Slagley is working on a grant to get the ramps off the ground."

Regarding liability concerns, Ingram said there are no more or no less than in any other city-supported sport.

"If we stop doing things because of the liability issues involved, we will never make any progress in the City," Ingram said.

Councilman Slagley and Kathy McHugh, a partner in the grant research and writing firm of Roth, McHugh and Associates had the opportunity to visit a skateboarding park in Huntsville.

"Huntsville had a unique opportunity when they explored skateboard parks," McHugh said. "They were able to secure some remnant property donated by the Department of Transportation following an Interstate project - they even had architectural services for the park donated. We were able to see just what was involved in building a park from a city-standpoint."

McHugh said that while there was not enough time, logistically speaking, to write a grant application for the current cycle, the City was not going to let the issue drop.

"There is a possibility that we could get a grant together for application by the end of the year, of possibly early 2002," she said. "I have spoken to someone at the state-level about skateboarding parks, and he was real encouraging about its popularity - he said while other sports, are sporadically popular, like tennis, around Wimbledon time, skateboarding and in-line skating have been consistently popular for about 10 or 15 years now - that is a plus for the pursuit of developing a facility for the sport."

Kennedy said the kids involved in skating have furnished all the equipment at the park right now.

"We have built our own jumps, ramps and benches," Kennedy said. "But we recently had a problem with vandalism - somebody came by and damaged some of my equipment."

Chief Ingram assured the skateboarders that patrols would be beefed-up in the area to hinder any further vandalism.

Parents are equally enthused by the possibilities of a skateboard park.

Josie Albritton, who's son Quentin is actively involved in the sport, and her daughter Felicha, who is a fan, thinks the notion is great.

"I'm all for it," she said. "This gives the kids something to do, and keeps them off the street corners and out of trouble - parents need to get involved in their children's interests."

Probate Judge Mack Russell, whose son McDonald is also into skateboarding, has been a supporter for several years.

"I've taken my son and his friend to out-of-town skateboard parks," he said. "I am glad to see that we are working on getting one here in Greenville."

Kennedy maintains a web site on the Internet for local skateboarding, and has attracted outside interest from it.

"We have had several people stop by our website while they are browsing the Internet, and from seeing what we are doing, they have come down to skateboard," Kennedy said. "If anyone is interested in seeing what the sport offers, they can come to our web page at www.greenvilleskateboarding.com ."