by Paul Bowers
A county skatepark originally slated to open this summer has been delayed and will not open until early 2015, according to a Charleston County Park and Recreation official.
After dealing with myriad hang-ups from highway regulatory agencies at an original 1.2-acre site near Meeting Street and the Highway 17 overpass, Park and Rec decided last September to relocate the planned skatepark to a 3.3-acre site at 1593 Oceanic St., in an underdeveloped part of the Neck. The Commission voted to approve spending $850,000 on the land, and Park and Rec executive director Tom O'Rourke estimated at the time that construction would begin in January or February 2014.
But it's now April 2014, and Park and Rec doesn't even own the land yet. "Once we got going, there were some things I never even imagined," O'Rourke says.
According to O'Rourke, the purchase hasn't gone through yet because the site is tied up in an heirs' property dispute. Court records show that the parcel's current owner, Ashley II of Charleston LLC, is a defendant in two civil lawsuits involving the property.
There are problems with the land itself, too. Aside from the ownership snafu, O'Rourke says initial surveying has shown that the site has some concrete buried under the ground, which could add to the cost and affect the decision on whether skate bowls are built in-ground or above-ground. It also turns out the property, which borders wetlands, has shifted slightly.
"We're not losing any highland; it's just a different configuration than we originally thought," O'Rourke says.
With the existing obstacles, O'Rourke now estimates that Park and Rec will be able to begin construction in August and finish the project in January 2015. O'Rourke did not give an updated estimate on the price of the park, which was planned to be built using revenues from the park system and no tax money.
O'Rourke says he realizes the delay comes as hard news for skateboarding advocates who have been pushing for the construction of a public skatepark for well over a decade now.
"What they care about is when is it going to be done, and when can we skate?" O'Rourke says.
The latest plans for the skatepark include a climbing wall, a zipline, and an area for slacklining.