Skate park in the works — finally

By Stina Sieg | Nov 08, 2012

After more than a decade of meetings, fundraising and false starts, it looks like Waynesville is finally getting a skate park. And it even has the Tony Hawk seal of approval.

Hawk, arguably the most famous skater in the world, wrote simply "Looks good!" on the park's building plans after the town applied for a Tony Hawk Grant of $5,000. The town ended up getting the money, which was rolled into the approximate $400,000 it has budgeted for this fiscal year to construct the park. That means the park is set to be completed by no later than June 30, 2013 — and that's for certain, explained Rhett Langston, Waynesville Rec Center executive director.

"It's definitely a done deal," he said. "It's definitely going to happen."

He added that the project will be put out to bid by early next year, with construction starting in the spring. With an estimated two-to-three month building time, he's very confident about making the deadline.

Some of this certainty comes from the fact that if the plans did fall through, a large chunk of change would be lost. Several years ago, the town applied for a reimbursement grant from N.C. Parks and Recreation for just over $60,000. If it's not used by June 30 (about three years after it was awarded), it disappears.

And is there any chance of that happening?

"No, no, no, no, no, no," said Langston, adding "no" a few more times for emphasis.

Some skaters, however, aren't convinced. Jared Lee, one of the most vocal members of the skateboarding community, explained that he and other skaters have been strung along for years. He and his mother started attending meetings about the proposed park when he was 13. He's now 29.

He believes the town hasn't kept the community in the loop and that locals like himself have just been left to wonder about the status of the park. Meanwhile, many fundraisers have been held and donations have been brought in, but the money has just been sitting there, waiting to be used. Additionally, he's angry that Langston once said a groundbreaking might take place this July, but that hope fell flat.

"And the reality is nobody's holding the town accountable for this," Lee said. "It's just this open-ended thing that they can keep pushing back."

Mayor Gavin Brown admits the timeline isn't optimum but stressed the important thing is that the park is finally coming to fruition.

"In the world of public enterprise, sometimes things don't get done as quickly as in the private sector," he said, "but we get it done."

Helping make it happen is the influx of funds the town is getting from its tax on video sweepstakes that the town had pledged toward the park effort. He estimates the town should receive $100,000 in gaming tax this year alone. While the town has budgeted $400,000 for the project, he believes that number is high.

This is a "good project," he went on, that he believes will stand the test of time.

"This will be here 50, 100 years from now, and will hopefully be used as it is today, when we get it finished on June 30," he said.

Langston believes that the lasting impact of this project is part of why it took so long.

"We just want to make certain it's done correctly and it's something everyone can be proud of," he said.

Construction wasn't possible a decade ago because there wasn't the money, he explained. It wasn't possible earlier this year because the town didn't have all the construction reports and needed paperwork finished up. Now, there's nothing to stand in the park's way.

While neither Brown nor Langston are skaters, both sounded excited for those in the community who are.

"I can't wait to watch others use it," Langston said. "And it will be a lot of fun."

On this point, Lee agrees, but he's still miffed at the long journey to this end. So much has been "hush hush," he said, which has jaded him and the those youngsters who have waited with him for years. Those kids are seeing at a young age that "government is kind of a joke," he said.

So, despite the promises from the town, Lee is taking a wait-and-see approach to the new park. He believes he's not the only one.

"I'm not buying it yet," he said. "I don't believe ya'll. I don't trust ya'll."